The EFRU cycling tour: The cyclists’ experience

September 26, 2013 in Newsletters

The EFRU cycling challenge has now become a regular event for EFRU members and a number of cyclists participate regularly.  Amongst the regular participants are Luan Vella and Winston Pirotta, both of whom train regularly and have been cycling for a number of years.

For both cyclists, this year’s tour was their third time participating in an EFRU cycling event. When asked about what makes them keep coming back to the cycling challenge, the cyclists replied that, not only are the people great company, but the EFRU takes things seriously and provides proper backup assistance to the cyclists.

“When I mean backup, I don’t mean a car simply driving behind the pack”

The EFRU were always around to assist as needed, pampering the cyclists all the way and continuously providing them with water.

“Maybe next time they can get some cakes with them to top it all off”, teased Winston.

Moreover, the ever-present and vigilant backup team included highly-trained advanced first aiders –who know exactly how to handle any emergency situation – as well as an off-duty General Practitioner;  thus giving the cyclists peace of mind knowing that their well-being was the main focus throughout the event.

Aside from praise for the EFRU backup team, both cyclists had very positive comments about the EFRU as an organisation, stating that the EFRU is well organised and the events are always thoroughly planned.  Winston claimed that the only thing he would change would be to add on one or two group rides before the actual event.

The cyclists explained that cycling abroad is always a challenge; even though the planned route may be available beforehand, new routes mean that you are never entirely sure what’s up next – flat land or a hill.

“The routes chosen by the EFRU have always been a very good balance for both the experienced and the average cyclist”.

The route chosen this year was mainly on roads with very limited or no traffic, allowing cyclists to enjoy the scenery.  This fact was not lost on Luan, who remarked that “Cycling up the Iblei mountains is always a challenge for me…and the 2013 event added spice to the usual route up to Lentini”.

In Winston’s opinion though, the routes followed on previous tours – across the villages beneath the Etna volcano – greatly rival this year’s route in terms of the breath-taking scenery.

When asked about any future events they would like to see organised by the EFRU, one of the cyclists suggested a longer challenge, possibly spread over three days.  Such an event would be more demanding on the cyclists, yet would provide a greater sense of accomplishment, not to mention more sights to see and views to enjoy!

As experienced cyclists, what advice would you give to anyone travelling abroad to participate in cycling events similar to the EFRU Cycling Tour 2013?

Winston:  “Just go for it… don’t think about it too much. Sometimes it’s tough, but the sense of accomplishment after the challenge makes it all worthwhile!”

Luan:  “The first cycling experience should be with a very good backup team.  Malta does not have long climbs and stretches for proper training, so cycling abroad might give a very different experience to your usual training.”

The Spark That Lights The Fire – Electrical Fire Hazards

September 26, 2013 in Newsletters

The spark that lights the fire… No we are not speaking metaphorically, and we’re not talking about lighting a campfire with flints either. We are talking about fire hazards due to electricity. Unfortunately, electricity seems to be a frequent cause of accidental house fires, so it makes sense to consider ways to prevent such fires, and also to know how to tackle these fires when they happen.

Is there such a thing as an electrical fire?

We normally class fires according to the fuel (material) that is burning, for example solid fuels such as wood, paper and fabric. The electricity is in fact a source of ignition or heat, thus contributing to starting the fire. The fire itself still requires a fuel source, as well as oxygen and heat in order to burn. Electrical fire hazards may be split in two – those where an electrical spark is generated, and those where an electrical current causes a large increase in temperature. When there are poor electrical contacts, or exposed wires, there may be sparks that fly off onto curtains, paper, or other combustible objects thus starting a fire. On the other hand, when there is an overload on an electrical socket, or a fault in an appliance, you may have a high current passing, which greatly increases the temperature of the wire or electrical socket, starting a fire. Appliances that normally use a high current, such as a toaster or an iron, need particular attention. It is also possible that blocking ventilation to an electrical appliance (such as computers or fridges) may cause a fault which in turn starts a fire.

Extinguishing a fire started by electricity or where electrical sockets are close to the fire

  1. The first thing to do in such a case is to switch off the electricity supply, preferably from the main switch. This stops the possibility of the fire starting again after extinguishing it, and also eliminates the danger of electrical shock.
  2. Next, extinguish the fire using a fire extinguisher if the fire is small enough to be controlled. If the fire has developed too much to handle by yourself, call the emergency number 112, and get yourself to safety.

Important: Whenever there is a smell or suspicion of a gas leak, NEVER operate electrical switches! A spark may cause an explosion. In this case, open windows and doors to ventilate the house and close off the gas source.

One of the most basic fire prevention strategies is proper housekeeping. Unnecessary paper or fabric close to ignition sources may develop into a serious fire in a short time.


  • Do not overload electrical sockets. Use them as they are designed, as otherwise a higher than normal current will pass, raising the temperature and possibly starting a fire.
  • Make sure there are no exposed wires both on the side of the plug, as well as on the side of the appliance. Plugs also need to be of the correct type to match the socket outlet.
  • Remember to switch off appliances when not in use, preferably from the socket outlet.

Joe Bonnici
EFRU K9 / Rescuer

Upcoming Events – June 2013

July 16, 2013 in Newsletters

  1. Diving course, including Rescue Diver Course for a substantial group of EFRU members.
  2. Fire awareness Session with Stella Maris Boys’ Scouts on Saturday 20th July 2013.
  3. Fire awareness activities in two summer schools in July & August.

Puttinu Cares Football Marathon – May 2013

July 9, 2013 in Newsletters

Another successful Puttinu Cares football marathon has drawn to a close and with it the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit’s first aid and fire cover duty. Over 60 hours (between 3rd and 5th May), the EFRU saw to the safety of the event round-the-clock, having a team of first aiders available for any eventualities. This was a challenge for the volunteers themselves: staying awake for long hours and enduring the heat of the sun during the day. However, the effort paid off, as witnessed by the numerous cases that the team took care of. This yearly commitment is part of the EFRU’s Community Assistance Program through which the unit helps charitable and youth organisations in their events by providing basic fire and first aid awareness as well performing rescue demonstrations.

The environment of the football marathon, in itself, presents several hazards which may lead to injuries – in fact, the EFRU first aid team faced mild injuries like sprains, ankle twists, abrasions and superficial cuts, as well as more serious ones like dislocated elbows, broken fingers, neck injuries, concussions and even a suspected spinal injury and suspected heart attack. The EFRU first aid team was backed up by the presence of a doctor – also an active member of the unit – who was able to provide better guidance for the more serious cases. That being said however, these cases were still referred to Mater Dei hospital and the EFRU ambulance made several trips to hospital. For this event, the EFRU availed itself of a second ambulance kindly loaned to the unit by Kevin Gauci and manned by volunteers from the Government Ambulance Garage Section.

Despite the fact that there were a significant number of first aid cases, there is no cause for alarm, especially considering the huge amount of people that participated in, or visited, the football marathon at some point. However, the general public is encouraged to be careful so as to avoid mishaps. A case in point is for spectators to avoid stopping to observe near the goalposts, especially if they have young children, both in pushchairs or carried by them.

The EFRU management wishes to thank all volunteers who attended and helped during the event and actively looks forward to next year’s edition of the Puttinu Cares Football Marathon.

Joe Bonnici
EFRU Rescue Volunteer

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Waggy tails this summer

July 9, 2013 in Newsletters

Summer is once more knocking at our doorstep. We start to plan barbecues, beach trips and long days off relaxing.  But what about our canine friends? Certain breeds tend to suffer more in summer than others. In particular, the so-called “brachicephalic” breeds such as the pug, boxer and bulldog. These types of dogs have more trouble breathing in this heat and risk overheating. Great care must be taken to avoid them being out too long in the heat, especially without constant access to fresh drinking water. Other breeds that suffer in the heat are those that are not intended for this climate – breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky spring to mind. Other long-haired breeds may benefit from a good grooming and shaving around this time of year.

Even if your dog isn’t one of these breeds, care should be taken to avoid long periods of exposurein direct sunlight. Certain dogs, especially short-haired ones, can also get sunburnt. In fact, I would suggest using sunblock on any exposed areas such as the nose and abdomen (tummy). One should also bear in mind that the temperature of the pavement/tarmac on the roads can be unbearably hot at certain times of day – these can burn your dog’s foot pads causing sores and foot infections.

Grass seeds:  This is, unfortunately, the time of year for the most insidious of dangers to our pets. Seemingly harmless, these seeds are very dry at this time of year and can easily get into a dog’s eyes, ears and nose, as well as the foot pads. Even a grass seed or burr that gets attached to the coat can eventually perforate (penetrate) the skin if not removed in time. Apart from the obvious discomfort, they can give some pretty bad infections especially in places where they break the skin.

Dogs die in hot cars:  This is a slogan we have heard over and over again. However, some people still choose to ignore it. The temperature inside a car rises quickly when stationary, even if parked in the shade. Dogs cannot withstand such high temperatures for very long. This is therefore a practice that should be avoided, even if for a few minutes. It can take only a few minutes for a dog to lapse into un-consciousness and die.

Ticks and fleas: These dastardly parasites are present all year round, but especially so in summer. Apart from the obvious dangers of having a blood-sucking parasite attached to your beloved pooch, these insects also carry diseases in their saliva. Most common in Malta is Ehrlichiosis, which is a tick-borne disease. If left untreated, this disease can cause severe anaemia and may also be fatal. Fleas can transmit worms to dogs and may cause harsh flea allergies, which then result in potentially severe bacterial and fungal skin infections. Spot-on treatments should be applied monthly to avoid these infestations. Care should be taken to avoid washing the dog two days before and after application.

Sandfly: As mentioned in my previous article, summer is also sandfly season. Avoid taking your dog out at sunrise and sunset and use adequate protection.

Swimtime! Dogs love the sea and most dogs are natural swimmers. Always monitor your dog when swimming and rinse your dog with fresh water afterwards, as the salt can cause sores on the dog’s skin when dry.  However, having said that, the salt water is very beneficial in cases of allergies or skin infections. Also, should one have a dog with certain joint problems, swimming will greatly help to ease the pain as it allows exercise without putting any pressure on the joint.

BBQ season: It is ideal that dogs aren’t fed anything that has come off the BBQ as the charred meat is not good for them. Also, at BBQs, dogs are often fed meat that contains bones. Many of these dogs unfortunately end up at their local vet with stomach problems the next day. If you are feeding dogs meat, always opt for a white meat, such as chicken that has been de-skinned and de-boned.

Dr Victoria Bondin
EFRU Rescuer

From Mother to Rescuer

July 9, 2013 in Newsletters

Name: Maria Vassallo Micallef
Age: 27
Occupation: Team leader in a pharmaceutical laboratory
Position with the EFRU:  Secretary to the Executive Committee

This month, I had the opportunity to sit down and really get to know Maria – one of the EFRU’s most seasoned members.  Maria first joined the Unit in 2009 and two years ago assumed the role of Secretary to the Executive Committee: a role to which she has taken with natural ease, with her superb organisational skills and competence in performing her tasks.

Outside of the EFRU, Maria is currently employed within a local pharmaceutical company and has recently submitted her Masters dissertation in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Malta.  Despite leading a busy life, nothing can keep her from spending quality time with her husband and their 10 month-old daughter.

Maria’s contribution to the EFRU is three-fold:  she participates in weekly training sessions alongside other EFRU members and may lead a team of volunteers on training exercises and on duties.  She also shares in the administrative duties within the Unit, being the Secretary to the Executive Committee.  Such tasks include (but are definitely not limited to) coordinating members for events, assisting in managing the Unit’s finances, as well as compiling reports and presentations about the EFRU’s activities and achievements.

Whilst waiting for one of the Saturday training sessions to start, Maria and I sat down with a nice cold drink… and I bombarded her with questions.  In between laughs, she managed to answer my queries and provided me with a couple of thought-provoking replies.

Do you have any particular hobbies?

Aside from the EFRU?  Well, there are other things I love to do, but I don’t often have the time to engage in them.  When I do find some free time though, I like to read and possibly go for the occasional SCUBA dive.  However, each week I make it a point to enjoy some relaxing quality time with my family, such as picnics in Winter or BBQs and swimming in Summer.

What does the EFRU mean to you?

The EFRU is a commitment but not in negative way at all. The EFRU offers a number of positive aspects and is not only about rescue. The Unit gives young people many opportunities to learn, interact and develop important teamwork skills at a very crucial point in their lives: when they’re leaving their teenage life and entering the adult world.

Aside from the skills mentioned previously, the EFRU offers an encyclopaedia of first-hand knowledge in Rescue techniques, Fire fighting, First Aid skills and Safety Awareness to members.  All of this from highly dedicated and experienced personnel within the Unit.

What keeps you interested?

First and foremost is the sense of belonging to this group.  One feels a deep sense of familiarity, not only within the management team, but also and more importantly throughout the EFRU team.  The EFRU literally feels like my second home, and here I am not referring to the physical headquarters but to the sincere and sound relationships we have managed to build among our ever-growing team of members.  I am proud to say that I have plenty of brothers and sisters that I care for, and I am fully confident that this spirit is mutual.

How do you manage to fit everything into your busy schedule?

A lecturer once advised that “Work expands to fill the time you have”. This, I have learnt to be so true!  If you put your mind to it, you will manage to do all you want to do.  It became more challenging when I got married, and even more so after I gave birth to my daughter.  However, if you really want something, you’ll manage to structure your life to accommodate everything important to you.  In a committed life, one needs to be flexible and learns how to prioritise on a daily and weekly basis.  Something that keeps me going is that I am not the only one working; we are a team and I am only a small component of this team.   Above all, I have to admit that such a life is challenging. One encounters ups and downs, possibly due to the occasional failure to perform as one would wish, but life is a learning process after all!

As things stand, what words of wisdom would you impart to young adults?

In retrospect, I think that it really is a “must” that a person gets involved in some type of voluntary work.  Investing all your energy in your paid work just doesn’t make sense because, if you do not manage to “regenerate” yourself and free your mind from your day-to-day chores on a regular basis, then the work produced will not be of the highest quality you can give.

I do encourage people to involve themselves in organisations such as ours.  In particular, I see the EFRU as an opportunity for people from all walks of life.  If you want to give yourself a break and make a difference by helping others: through increasing awareness about fire safety, learning rescue techniques and First Aid skills to help when the need arises, then the EFRU is your organisation.

The most important thing is that you are committed.  In return, the EFRU gives you a goal to work for.  The EFRU helps you develop time management skills – so you can do what you love as well as manage other duties and responsibilities.  More importantly, at the EFRU you will be respected, your voice will be heard and you will make a difference!

Sylvana Cremona
EFRU Rescuer


July 9, 2013 in Newsletters

It was all about ‘coming together’ for the members of the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit when, on the 27th of April, the Unit participated in an international rescue exercise in neighbouring Italy. RESCUE2013, as the exercise was called, was the result of an initiative taken by the Italian Protezione Civile Edelweiss to bring together different volunteer organisations that operate in the field of rescue and community assistance. The exercise took place in Badolato, a small commune in the earthquake-prone, mountainous region of Calabria, South Italy and was aimed as an opportunity for cross-border collaboration in rescue training.

Amongst the organisations that took part were three major ones, each coming from a different country: the local organising entity, that is, Protezione Civile Edelweiss; the Escola Portuguesa de Salvamento (EPS-SAR) of Portugal and our very own Emergency, Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) which contributed with a team of 10 volunteers. The participating members formed three multi-national teams, each of which was led by one of the three leaders of the main participating groups: Edelweiss, EPS-SAR and EFRU, respectively. Each team had to partake in three different rescue simulations which focused on modules of USAR (Urban Search and Rescue), Medium-USAR and Confined Space Rescue.  All of the simulated incidents involved real live casualties that were, in different ways, trapped in abandoned or derelict places. These simulations represented different calamity scenarios, to each of which the three teams had to respond. Needless to say, while all of this involved different degrees of rescue expertise, the key to a successful collaboration was, in fact, teamwork and the participants’ will to share their knowledge amongst themselves and learn from one another. This exercise gave the EFRU volunteers the opportunity not only to perform in unfamiliar environments but also to work alongside foreign rescuers and to expose themselves to different rescue techniques.

For the EFRU, ‘coming together’ with other rescue teams from abroad was certainly a great experience which has left a positive impact on its participating members. It has laid the groundwork for similar cross-border collaborations in the future, to which the EFRU certainly looks forward.  We aim at ‘keeping together’, in order to develop present methods and explore new ways to improve operating procedures. RESCUE2013 has been an excellent example of how ‘working together’ can indeed be the key to success, particularly in the field of rescue, where the collective effort of all volunteers saves lives.

Iona Muscat
EFRU Rescue Volunteer

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Sprained Ankle – what to do if you’re out and about

March 26, 2013 in Newsletters

Spring is here and it’s the perfect time for hiking and walks in the countryside. However, one wrong step may ruin all the fun.

Ankle sprains and strains occur when ligaments or tendons around the ankle are pulled, resulting in swelling and difficulty walking.

If you hurt your ankle while out hiking, here’s what you need to do:

1. Rest. Take a break and examine the ankle. Elevate the ankle if possible or sit on the ground with your leg out in front of you. Try not to rest for too long so as not to delay your return to civilization.

2. Cool the area. If you have something cold available (for example, cold water), soak a cloth and apply this to the affected joint. If you’re near the sea or a stream, try to immerse the joint in the water. This will help with both the pain and swelling.

3. Bandage the ankle. This will help support the joint and allow you to walk back to the beginning of the trail. Check beyond the bandage every 10 minutes or so by pressing one of the toes. If the circulation is not impaired, the toe should regain colour almost immediately. Loosen the bandage slightly if the toe takes some time to regain color.
If you don’t have a bandage, try to improvise with what you do have with you. If you’re wearing boots, tighten the boots as much as possible to provide support, but without impairing circulation.
Avoid leaving your shoe/boot off for too long. Once you remove your shoe, the swelling will increase and you may not be able to put your shoe back on again.

4. Lean on a stick or a fellow hiker. This reduces the weight that you put on the injured joint and also helps with balancing on uneven ground.

It is always important to assess the severity of the injury. If you hear a “popping” or “snapping” sound, or the area is bruised and discolored  the injury is possibly worse than a simple sprain or strain. Get medical help quickly and avoid putting any weight on the joint.

Once back in civilization:

Follow the R.I.C.E. rule – Rest, Ice, Comfort and Elevation.

Rest: Ideally, reduce or stop using the injured joint for at least 48 hours. If this is not possible, rest your ankle when you can, for example by resting it on a chair in front of you while sitting.

Ice: Put an ice pack on the injured area and compress slightly for not more than 10 minutes at a time, between 4 to 8 times a day as required. You can use a bag of frozen peas, a plastic bag filled with crushed ice, or anything cold that can fit around the injured joint. Don’t apply ice directly to skin as this can cause frostbite or “ice burns”.

Comfort: Provide a comfortable support for the injured area.

Elevation: When possible, keep the injured area elevated slightly above the heart. This helps in easing pain and swelling. When lying down, use a pillow to raise the leg and provide cushioning to the tender joint.

It is advisable to…
• Visit a doctor as soon as possible after getting injured.
• Get back to civilization immediately. Don’t try to continue hiking as you will only do more harm to your ankle. Ignoring the pain may result in a recovery that is much longer than a couple of days.

Upcoming Events – March 2013

March 26, 2013 in Newsletters

29th March 2013 – Good Friday Walk in aid of Puttinu Cares
EFRU volunteers will be participating in the Good Friday Night Walk in aid of Puttinu Cares that will be held on the 29th March. The walk will begin at the Sanctuary of Our Lady in Mellieha and will end at the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Church in Senglea.

24th to 28th April 2013 – USAR Exercise in Calabria, Italy
A team of EFRU members will be travelling to Calabria, Italy for a combined USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) exercise. This exercise will be carried out in conjunction with several other organisations and will be a great training opportunity for all attending members.

3rd, 4th and 5th May 2013 – The Puttinu Cares Annual Football Marathon
Members of the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit will be providing First Aid and Fire Protection at the Puttinu Cares Annual Football Marathon. The sixty hour marathon will start on Friday 3rd May and end on Sunday 5th May. Members of the EFRU will be manning their post on a 24 hour basis and the unit’s ambulance will also be on stand-by.

31st May to 1st June – EFRU Cycling Tour
The EFRU are currently finalising the plans for their fourth cycling tour up to Sicily, which will spread over two days. Several members of the EFRU will be participating, whilst other members will be following the tour and be available to provide any first aid treatment necessary.

Word Search – March 2013

March 26, 2013 in Newsletters

What you’ll need to do…

  • Open the word search puzzle in Paint (or something similar) or print it out.
  • Find the words listed on the right hand side.
  • Save (or scan) the printed puzzle.
  • Email your answers to us on [email protected]

We will then do the rest. The winner will be contacted by email or phone (email us your phone Number along with your answers) and will be announced in the next newsletter.

 Terms of the Competition

Competition closes on the 10th of April 2013 and the winner’s name (drawn out of a hat) will be announced in the next issue.
One entry per user.
Competitors must be 18 years old and over.
All participants playing must have fun!


Abseil for two with the members of the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit.


Winner of the December 2012 Spot-the-Difference Puzzle

Congratulations to Joe Pavia!

Joe was the winner of the Spot-the-Difference puzzle prepared by Nicholas Galea and, as a small appreciation for his efforts, will be joining the EFRU for a fun abseil in the coming weeks.