SIMULEX18 – Afterthought

July 15, 2018 in Member Interviews, U.S.A.R.

A thought worth sharing …

 

In earlier correspondence the editorial team did divulge to our readers that the EFRU was once again heading a multi-national event scheduled for March 2018. It went by the name SIMULEX18 and like its predecessor events, it brought much to the plate of each and every EFRU member. In retrospect, there is no denying that the whole thing was a huge success… yet while the majority of us lay in tatters, trying to regain our energy in the week following the big weekender, Maria, our deputy director and captain of the gigantic, energy-consuming boat that was SIMULEX18, was putting pen to paper. There are no words the editorial team could have written better to capture what this was all about. There is no other way we would want this to be remembered. This is why we choose to share the following thoughts, straight from Maria’s pen, with you, our faithful readers. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!

 

Five days later and I lie here, scrutinising each and every photograph that skilled photographers have yielded thanks to long hours on the field – hours which they spent alongside the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) and the operational volunteer rescuers of The European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams (EVOLSAR).  The various uniforms, worn by rescuers from all around Europe, standing next to each other, supporting one another in the several simulated rescue operations… an awe-inspiring sight and an amazing feeling, to say the least.  This mental image alone bears witness to the truth we have firmly believed in since before the conception of EVOLSAR: it is possible for rescuers with different backgrounds to come together, work in a rescue environment and function as one multinational team. A theory tried and tested, which now stands proven, to my own (and our members’) delight and reassurance!

The concept of the SIMULEX 18 project was created back in October / November 2016 by the EFRU strategists with the support of our proposal writers who joined forces to present a proposal to the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation (MCCFF).  We were honoured to find out, months later, that the MCCFF accepted our proposal and supported us all along to reach the goals of this project: Volunteer Rescuer Team Preparedness in Emergency Response.

The concept

The basis behind this project lies with the fact that Malta is an archipelago of islands, physically separated from other countries and relatively limited in resources – especially human resources – should a major disaster strike.  The EFRU has, through its membership within EVOLSAR, come up with a concept that could support Malta in terms of the rescuer human resource in a disaster.  Within a few hours, foreign rescuers from other European countries, could reach Malta, by sea or plane (depending on available routes of access) and provide their support vis-à-vis the human resource whilst operating under the EFRU umbrella.  This would be possible as the EFRU is, through EVOLSAR, building on its capacity of trained and professional rescue personnel to operate together irrespective of the team or country that they come from. 

Thanks to the funding of this project, EFRU invested in two rapid deployable tents for use in incident command. These could be used as medical triage but could also double up as sleeping and mess quarters, in the field, close to a disaster area.  Rescue personnel from abroad, together with the local EFRU rescuers would form teams that are fully functional in support of the local emergency response efforts, thus increasing the efficiency of the local response. This on-going project includes two simulative rescue operations – one being SIMULEX18 – just held 5 days ago.  It saw around 40 local personnel operating alongside 40 foreign rescuers, split into two operational shifts whereby each shift operated with two sub-rescue teams.  Simulated scenarios included live and deceased casualties lost in rubble in the hypothetical aftermath of an earthquake. Some casualties needed immediate medical attention in sites that are not reachable on foot, thus required rope access, while others were trapped in confined spaces.

The interoperability being promoted through this project would benefit Malta in the immediate aftermath of a disaster where part of the Maltese Emergency response systems could get crippled because of the nature of our islands.  Getting the support of trained rescue personnel from abroad under the umbrella of EVOLSAR could circumvent long bureaucratic procedures ultimately for the benefit of Malta and the Maltese community.

Preparations

From bench to launch the hurdles seem huge.  In reality, the challenges are there all along, but a closely-knit team will leave no stone unturned in attaining what it wishes to achieve.  SIMULEX18 was a classical example.  The quantum of work could be felt from at least three months earlier.  Sub-committees led by the EFRU executive were created and instigated to work towards goals that we all believed in.

The level of preparation that such a project entails is overwhelming, but once the limits are set, targets are cast and work begins.  Flexibility, all along, is key.  Bearing in mind that all personnel working incessantly on such an activity is a must.  Apart from being volunteers, our members are also full-time employees, students, husbands and wives with demanding work and family commitments in the absolute majority of cases.  The hardships of personal and professional life are obvious, but those aside, our volunteer rescuers also sacrifice their already-limited time towards the EFRU’s cause and the success of such events.  To say that this is simply admirable would be an understatement. 

Just to mention a few of the multitude of preparations that are involved for such an event, I would start at the logistics. To take care of 40 foreigners from as soon as they land, till their time of departure is no easy feat. In addition to this, is an endless list of tasks: recceing and choosing rescue simulation locations, planning the simulations to precision, determining where to set up the base of operations and all the arrangements required for the latter to function well, compiling the modus operandi of the incident command, obtaining necessary permits and support from third parties where required, administrative tasks… This while ensuring internal alignment on all fronts – keeping the team and sub-teams well informed all along.  Nothing just falls in its place without long hours of planning and brainstorming sessions within small fora where strategies are developed and decided upon.  All of these steps take time and no one step may be missed.

Implementation kicks off a couple of days prior to the actual event and timelines become extremely tight as soon as foreigners arrive in Malta.  The discipline of our team is admirable. When one commits to something, rest assured, it will get done, one way or another.  The team is reliable.  Just prior to the simulation kick off, heads come together to re-align on the fine details.  Operational teams need to be briefed and the conduct of the brief (and the detail to which it is done) is critical.  Continuous communication between the leaders of the different sub-teams is a must for the smooth-running of the entire event.  Moreover, in a 24-hour simulation of the like, one is testing stamina.  The day may start off as a warm one but during the night, the cold gets to you.  Hunger strikes at times you don’t predict and food is not continuously accessible.  Being at the organisational end of it, the weight of your responsibilities start wearing you down but your attention needs to remain undivided.  If you are a team leader you need to keep your team motivated, especially if you cannot take intervals of rest at all due to the role.  As you go along, during the simulation, logistical problems need to be solved, in the shortest time possible, in the most efficient way. 

In the incident command teams, the nature of the work necessitates that responsible personnel are generally sitting down for long periods of time.  The cold starts affecting the senses and the frame of mind but we find ways to keep each other alert. Interest is retained by keeping up the frequent discussion and occasional humouristic punch-lines.  Being in incident command has its disadvantages as well.  One sees the stereotypical ‘bigger picture’ where the operations are concerned, but is denied participation.  Motivational levels may tend to subside unless fired up by the team spirit, such as that which prevailed during SIMULEX18. Also worthy of note is the fact that this year EFRU took a step forward in incident command and made use of standard tools of the United Nations for the management of documentation necessary for the Incident Command.  This was a very interesting challenge that all EFRU members took pride in whilst experiencing for the first time, at first hand.

Support from Third Parties

This project would not have made it past the launching line without the support of entities that believed in the value of the concept right from the start.  The concept of interoperability was well received by the evaluation board of the MCCFF and the EFRU saw a strong element of support all along during the first year of this project. Such support was sought from entities such as the Mosta Scouts group as well as the Scouts Association of Malta for the use of the base of operations and simulation sites.  Albeit a hard challenge, the EFRU finally obtained the support of the Maltese authorities for much needed permits for certain simulations.

Entities such as Vodafone, printing presses and food suppliers supported EFRU with the provision of internet keys for the event, printed material, marketing material and food supplies at no or extremely reduced costs. It is thanks to the belief of the MCCFF, other non-profit organisations and commercial entities that such an event could be moulded into a successful one by the able EFRU team of rescue volunteers.

Well done Team!  The pride of being part of this amazing team is, simply put, indescribable.

 

Iona Muscat – Rescuer & Newsletter Editor

 

The Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit, Malta.

The Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) is a non-profit, voluntary organization, specializing in Basic and Advanced Rescue; Cliff Rescue; High Angle Rescue; Basic and Advanced Fire-Fighting; USAR, USAR – K9 and First Aid.Learn more on www.efru.org Or e-mail info@efru.net for more information.This video is being launched as part of a project funded by the Small Initiatives Scheme of the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector.#EFRU #rescue #malta #jointheEFRU #volunteering #SproutMedia #MCVS #EVOLSAR #USAR #TakingPrideInHelpingOthersSprout Media

Posted by Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit on Saturday, June 30, 2018

 

Ready, steady … Food-fight! – An interview with Terence Delia

September 27, 2016 in Member Interviews

_53A4686What ‘menace’ is to ‘Dennis’ relates closely to whichever word it is that rhymes with and describes Terence, even if they have yet to invent it!

To start with the usual basics: Terence Delia is our other 31-year-old engineer who does things in life that go well beyond his profession. Remember the interview with Steve, the spontaneous stunt-bomb? Yes, there is a reason why Terence and Steve are always mentioned together and I intend to explain this to our readers. Not only do the two have a flair for fixing and unfixing things, but both share a knack for all that which is unconventional and thrillingly non-conformist. Naturally, it was Steve who convinced Terence to join EFRU and from what I gather there are no regrets from either end!

Now, for the less-obvious facts. Since he joined in October 2014, Terence has embarked on an increasingly interesting experience which led him from acquiring his basic first-aid and rescue skills, through fire fighting and all the way to completing 300 kilometers of cycling in Sicily with the EFRU annual tour! In his own words, he never thought he’d see the latter feat through, and the point is precisely that; so many members of EFRU have, in so many ways, overcome hurdles they had never thought they would. If I may add on to Terence’s contribution, there is one significant element of being part of the Unit. It makes you believe in yourself and gives you the grit to carry on.

On a lighter note, I move on to my next question. I ask Terence what he thinks is the most positive thing he gained from being a member of EFRU. Quickly and with a dash of mischief in his tone he replies:

Friends! By being part of EFRU I got reunited with my old buddies David and Stephen, but of equal importance is the number of new people I got to know, few of whom became best friends!

And I nod in accordance as I know he’s right.  David is the third in the trio, one of the earlier members of the Unit and the other engineer-guru interviewed for last summer’s newsletter. Dave, Steve and Terence are a dangerous mix, but they truly live up to the genuine definition of ‘old buddies.’ Since this is about Terence, though, I must point out: he is the guy who bursts into flames and throws himself in the haystack. He’s probably the fellow to blame when there’s food flying across the room or when someone’s missing a piece of clothing, only to be found hidden away in the oddest of places. Stir the pot, fan the fire… Terence does them all; but, you see, it’s all in good humour. Indeed, that way of socialising has now become something of an EFRU-trademark.

So when a fellow member oozes such positivity, sometimes you do wonder whether there is anything at all that makes him tick. My question is direct: ‘what irks you when you are training with the rest of the team?’ To which he replies:

Not much, really, but since you asked, it is when I am unable to help out fellow team members due to lack of training or knowledge; hence my craving to learn new skills.

And indeed that’s Terence for you. When the situation isn’t favourable he still finds a way to fuel his positive approach to things and ropes everyone in on his plan.

When I corner Terence with my next complex question, he takes a while to answer but when he does, he does so honestly. I refer to the fact that although he is often taken up with his very busy personal life, he still finds the time to be one of the most committed members of the Unit. When I ask how he does it, he admits that ‘priorities are continuously being juggled’. In his own words, he tries to find time for everything, be it work or play, and he considers his commitment towards EFRU as a break from daily routine. And for the bad time-managers out there, his suggestion is to be active and stop wasting time and he is convinced anyone could do it!

Finally; what about his future prospects?

Terence declares to live day by day and although he doesn’t see too far into the future, he is confident that EFRU is on its way to being a leading NGO of its kind and he foresees success for the Unit both locally and internationally. We could only hope he is right.

To sum it all up, if this had been an army interview, Terence would be described as a guy whose character displays high levels of ‘esprit de corps’. But for those who don’t do fancy-speak:Terence is the guy who is permanently one inch from taking it too far, but everyone just likes him all the more for it! And while I work my way through this write up, trying to do justice to the friendship he has shared with us for almost two years, I sit and gape in awe as he complains (for once!): ‘I’d rather you had given me story sums to solve!’

Sshhhh! Quiet down and listen in… for an interview with Frankline Lauria

June 10, 2016 in Member Interviews

FranklineLaureaThere are two kinds of EFRU members. There is the boisterous kind – those that make themselves heard before they are seen, whose sparks set the team’s fuel alight and those that sprinkle every EFRU meeting with a dash of spicy osé. Then there are those of the other kind: the quieter few who are constantly pumping the fuel in without too much fuss.  Frankline Lauria, 27, resides in Rabat and hails from the latter group.

Allow me to clarify.

In addition to being married and to her full-time employment as a lab analyst, Frankline is one of the busiest but most active members of the Unit. Her gentle attitudes are by no means a sign of weakness and she is far from workshy despite her constantly-calm and composed stance. She has been part of EFRU for just over two years and has, since Day One, never stopped contributing to our cause. Like many others in the team, she has given her time, her efforts and her knowledge to the benefit of the Unit but unlike most, she has so far managed to remain largely under the radar. My intention is to change that now, right here, in this little interview!

When you approach Frankline you’re likely to be greeted with a little smile and a lot of charm. You’d barely hear her response (rest assured she won’t wake your babies up!) but you can almost count on it: she’s probably saying yes. If not, she’s probably apologising and giving you the valid reason for which she is saying no. What’s interesting is that her husband, Fabien, is also a member of EFRU and was in fact responsible for encouraging Frankline and urging her to join the team. One can only imagine the dedication they offer towards the Unit as a couple. Yet Frankline’s interests do not meet their end with rescue and first aid. When asked what she likes to do outside of EFRU, in her free time, she mentions ‘reading and outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, picnics and enjoying the countryside.’

One of Frankline’s crucial roles in the Unit is teaching First Aid to people outside the organisation – the task she favours most amongst all her contributions. Her science background is undoubtedly an asset and perhaps explains her aptitude in First-Aid-related tasks, be it that of an instructor or that of a responder.  Nevertheless, she enjoys being part of all types of training. She states that rescue training is what she considers the most informative, with so much to learn and for the opportunity it gives to our rescuers to improve their life skills. Interestingly, she also mentions social activities as a favourite aspect of the. This is where fellow members can meet up and get to know each other outside the strict training environment. For those who wonder what it means for a couple to be married and a committed member of the EFRU, Frankline puts it in simple words:

‘It’s a matter of priorities and some sacrifice too. Giving up some our free time at the weekend to be part of a great team to learn and teach is very rewarding and this is what keeps us coming. Sometimes because of work and family life commitments it is difficult but the team support is great and this helps us to feel part of the EFRU family even when we’ve been away for some time.’

Even when I ask whether the couple intends to keep committing to EFRU later in their married life, Frankline confesses that her wish is to keep up her role in the organisation even as her family starts growing. She actually intends to get more involved! In her own words: ‘Being part of EFRU, makes me proud and I would like to transmit this to others (even non-members) to encourage them to join and be part of this great team.’ The time comes for my last question: what is so good about EFRU and which would make it different from other organisations? Inevitably she comments on the great teamwork, and I daresay no one would disagree!

If I am allowed one admission, I’d confess I have yet to get to know Frankline better. But the last couple of years which gave me the fortune of her acquaintance have shown me enough to make one unwavering declaration. Like her fellow other-kind colleagues, Frankline adopts the low-profile approach, keeping her voice down and her sleeves up as she works happily in silence to make the EFRU a better place than she found it. She’s held as testimony to the serious commitment by people who have no interest in joy-rides and who seek more than just the adventure element in the things they commit to.

A few of us out there stand to watch and learn.

Iona Muscat

EFRU Volunteer & Rescuer

HOLD YOUR BREATH… AND HOPE FOR THE BEST! An interview with Stephen Dalli

March 9, 2016 in Member Interviews

11181497_10153804931653496_5101780165383310681_nIf each individual member of the EFRU had to be described with one phrase, Steve’s one would be just that. To lay the cards on the table straight away, Steve could easily be singled out as the Unit’s most dynamic character; a stunt-bomb threatening to spontaneously self-combust. He is unpredictable, or if you know him well enough, dangerously predictable and he knows way more than he should about how things work. Which is what brings me to his official, more politically-correct, description. At 30 years, Steve is an engineer and teaches Engineering Technology in a local secondary school. Since March 2013 he has formed part of the EFRU family and has, ever since, been a very active contributor to the Unit. He is also married to a very understanding and patient Amanda.

When I ask Steve what his hobbies are he gets very diplomatic:

My hobby is to try new things, anything I’ve never done before will definitely get my attention.’

Which is true, but I believe that three years of being Steve’s colleague and friend give me enough license to elaborate. He zooms around the island on a motorbike, gets creative with photography and video editing, shoots paper targets… and the list goes on, all the way to building gigantic mechanized cribs and forging all sorts of blades.  He also dives and admits that it is the activity that stuck with him the longest. And I invite you to hazard a guess: what kind of diving does he like best? Free diving, of course! The kind of diving that requires no hefty scuba gear but where you just hold your breath and disappear in the deep blue, leaving your family and friends to bite their nails till you resurface.

When you have such an energetic member in your team, you cannot but wonder what it is that motivates him and who he gets his inspiration from. Which is why my next question to Steve is: ‘who would you describe as your role model?’ His answer is brisk, short and very frank.

My role model is myself. He does everything exactly the same way as I would!

Hah! Not much to add to that, I’m afraid. An honest answer, even if blunt, is what you’ll always get from Steve. His no-frills policy is probably what makes Steve so to the point and reflects his let’s-get-down-to business attitude in the Unit. As big a bundle of random fun as he might be, Steve takes his EFRU duties very seriously. And so I ask what it is that keeps him coming to EFRU so regularly, when so much time is taken by other things in his life. Once again he’s quick to reply that at EFRU he gets to learn new skills and meets his friends whom he considers more as family at this stage.

My next question to our colleague is more of request and less of question. I ask him to describe one single EFRU experience he had that he will never forget. In his own words:

I can never forget the day when we saved a friend of mine from drowning after doing a cliff dive which didn’t end well. If it wasn’t for our well-coordinated team of rescuers, I would have ended up having one less friend.’

 

Very well said, Steve! Kudos to that EFRU duty-team that was quick enough to intervene, preventing such a terrible situation from getting so much worse.  Further into our interview, I attempt to get Steve to tell me how he would sell the idea of joining EFRU to other people, particularly those close to him. As one may predict, by now, he managed to put everything in a simple one-liner:

‘I would just let them know how much fun we have during training and events’.

One cannot but buy such a simple but genuine offer. As Steve rightly states, the EFRU has pretty much become a place where you get to learn invaluable life-skills in the good company of true friends. The more you invest in it, the more you get in return.

This sadly brings me to my last question. I ask where Steve sees himself in five years’ time, particularly where the EFRU is concerned. He completely evades the question, but chooses instead to get us all to raise an eyebrow (anyway, what’s new?). He states that he hopes not to do anything stupid that would cost him his life; if he’s alive in the next five years he’ll be more than happy, he says! Well, a toast to the next five years then! The past three have surely been significant in our dear friend’s life and we cannot but hope for many, many more of them to share with you at EFRU and beyond.

Iona Muscat

Interview: Duncan Baldacchino

December 7, 2015 in Member Interviews

duncanWherever the action is – be it training, an event that the Unit is covering, or simply some well-deserved rest and relaxation – Duncan Baldacchino can usually be found in the thick of it.  Easy to be around and thoroughly integrated into the team, Duncan is often among the first to jump in and lend a hand.  Here’s a little insight into this highly active team member…

 

If you were to compare yourself to an animal, what would you choose and why?

It really depends on the situation, but since my star sign is “Taurus”, I’ll compare myself to a bull – because when life gets tough, I lower my head and keep on charging through.

 

What’s your typical day like?

I usually get up at 5.45am, help my wife with getting the kids ready, take my daughter to school and then head off to work, followed by a part-time job.  For the last four years (since I joined in September 2011), I’ve also attended weekly training sessions with the EFRU.  Although I have a very tight schedule, I try to attend as many of the EFRU duties as possible.

 

How do you manage to juggle family life, two jobs and attending the EFRU?

Behind every great man, there is always a great woman.  My wife is extremely supportive of me in whatever I do.

 

Do you have any time left for hobbies?

Not really.  However my New Year’s resolution for 2016 will be to start cycling again, at least once a week.

 

Who is your prime mover/inspiration?

That is definitely my father.  He is a great man with a heart of gold.

 

What lifts you up, and what brings you down in life?

I take great satisfaction and enjoyment from what I do, and that lifts me up.  Making mistakes is what brings me down, but I always try to learn from them.

 

What got you interested in the EFRU?

My wife met a member of the EFRU at her place of work and got to know about the Unit from them.  She then convinced me that the Unit was ideal for me (and, as usual, she was right!).

 

Describe your experience within the Unit in three words.

Family.  Fun.  Fire.

The EFRU members are more than just colleagues and friends.  They’re my family away from home.  Fun is definitely an integral part of the experience, and fighting fire is something I’m extremely interested in.

Above all, at EFRU, I enjoy learning and developing new skills and techniques.

 

What’s your favourite discipline and why?

Rope work (such as High Angle Rescue).  There’s something about the discipline that attracts me and I’d like to learn more.

 

What’s your most memorable experience in the Unit so far?

Without a doubt, it has to be when we helped to extinguish the fire that broke out on the Foster Clark Products Limited premises in San Gwann.

 

What advice would you give someone who’s considering joining the EFRU?

Go for it!  It will be a great addition to your life.  There is no better feeling than to help others without expecting anything in return.  However, before joining, you do need to ask yourself if you can spare the time to at least attend training once a week.  Joining the EFRU is a bonus and definite benefit to your life.  The family environment exceeded all my expectations, particularly as we not only help others, but we also help and support each other in personal matters.

 

In what ways have you seen the Unit evolve along the years?

Since joining, the EFRU has emerged both locally and internationally.  EVOLSAR ( The European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams) was also founded, which is a huge step forward.  I was lucky enough to be present to see all of this happening.

 

Do you have any future aspirations?  Both in your personal life and within the EFRU?

My main objective is to create a better balance between work, family and the EFRU commitments.  I’d also like to attend courses offered by the International Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) and further my skills and qualifications.

 

Deborah Cefai & Miriam Cristina
EFRU Rescuers

Interview – Nicholas Galea

September 23, 2015 in Member Interviews

Nicholas GaleaNick is a 24 year old 2nd Lieutenant in the Armed Forces of Malta. He describes himself as an adventurous person. In fact, he is interested in anything that does not involve sitting around. Nick fills his spare time with sporting activities such as climbing, abseiling, kickboxing and similar activities. Motorbikes are his passion, both the hours spent riding them and the days spent trying to make them work properly in the garage.

He works for the Armed Forces of Malta, specifically in the Airwing. He joined the Army for very much the same reasons that he joined the EFRU. Being an adventurous person and always looking for the next challenge, joining the Army was only a natural step for him to take. He enlisted in 2013 as part of the ranks and after 2 years of service decided to take his career a step forward by joining the officer corps. This brought about its own set of challenges, one of which was a 9 month arduous course with the Royal Air Force.

My first question to Nick is how and when he learned about the EFRU as an organisation:

‘’I first learned about the EFRU in 2011 during a fair for voluntary organisations. After speaking with some of the members during the fair, I was hooked. I enrolled straight away and have been an active member for the past 4 years.’’

Following this introduction, I ask Nick whether he finds any similarities between the training in the Army and that held at the EFRU.

“Although my work in the army is different than my role at the EFRU, the training is still very similar in nature. Both require a certain level of discipline, attention to detail, good communication skills and a degree of physical fitness. Personally I think that having joined the EFRU first prepared me better for the Army, having already honed the above-mentioned traits in the EFRU.”

When asked about his favourite aspect of the EFRU, Nick says it is very hard to pinpoint just one as the EFRU as it is such a vast organisation and has so much to offer. However he declares that it must be the tie between the operational side, the training and the bonds made between all of us members.

Recently the Civil Protection Department organised the SIMIT exercise revolving around the simulation of an earthquake. My next question for Nick is whether he can tell us about the highlights of this event. Which particular exercise did he think was the most fruitful?

“The SIMIT was a 3 day exercise organised by the Civil Protection Department in order to enhance the cohesion between the CPD themselves and other volunteer organisations such as the EFRU. Personally the exercise that felt most effective in achieving the mentioned aims (and more) was the night exercise on Friday evening. The exercise involved the simulation of a search for a missing girl in the vicious terrain of ‘Ghajn Tuffieha’ (Apple’s eye) cliffs. Volunteers had to conduct the search, and then move the girl by stretcher to a location where she could be airlifted by an Armed Forces helicopter. This last part, for me, was the highlight of the exercise as my day job and the EFRU came together into one culminating moment.”

My last question for Nick is whether he feels the EFRU has added value to his life and in what ways. Furthermore, I ask him whether he would encourage others to join the EFRU.

“Yes, of course. Since all members of the EFRU are volunteers, we do what we do out of love for the work, not because we have to. Being able to do what you love adds value to your life more than anything else. I would encourage everyone to give it a try and I am sure not many would regret it. As I mentioned before the EFRU is a vast organisation and no matter what your background or interests may be we have a place and a job for anyone.”

Charlene Schembri
EFRU Rescuer

Interview – David Cristina

July 12, 2015 in Member Interviews

DavidCristinaFor this edition of our quarterly newsletter, I have the pleasure of interviewing one of our leading members, David Cristina. This 29 year old bald person (to quote his own humorous words) considers himself to be very determined, someone who does not easily accept no for an answer and is always willing to push to the next level. Also, he is technically minded, always on the lookout for new challenges and a team player, who shares a deep passion for mechanics and engineering, and loves to take an active stance. Besides contributing to the EFRU, David’s hobbies include cycling, diving, hiking and boating. On a professional level, he is an engineer working in a financial institution as Head of IT.

The first question which I like to ask my fellow team mates is what motivated them to join the EFRU in the early days. David tells me that along with his wife Miriam (who was his girlfriend at the time),he was willing to join a voluntary rescue organisation which offered rigorous training in various disciplines.Also, the EFRU gave them the opportunity to contribute to society through engagement, organisation and deployment in various related duties. A very good recommendation was made to them by an old friend, and after visiting the unit for an introductory overview and listening to Ivan Barbara, our director, passionately showing them the recently acquired fire truck, they were immediately hooked. The rest, of course, is history!

As our discussion ensues, I ask David what type of work he carries out for the EFRU. I personally know that he is an active tireless contributor to our cause, however as is true to form his response is very humble:

‘‘With the help of Sandro Camilleri, our deputy director, together with a number of member colleagues, we take care of all the vehicles and machinery, ensuring they are all serviceable and in ship-shape condition. Further to this, I am always ready to give a helping hand in organising physical training, rescue training, and team building exercises. I am a true believer of team work … at the end of the day the majority of the effort and time spent during SAR deployments is in bucket brigades.’’

Being particularly interested in the ways in which our interesting and challenging training sessions are organised, I ask David to give me more details:

‘’All training, irrespective of the nature, should be built up gradually and systematically. During the last intake for basic rescue in September, we revised the training programme to allow for such a build-up. This while also aiming to help each individual identify their strengths and weaknesses in a constructive manner, also while building a bond among all members. I have really enjoyed every minute of the course, and am looking forward to the next one.”

One of the best rewards that one gains from working with an organisation such as the EFRU is the depth and span of personality and leadership skills obtained. I agree with David when he expresses that one’s personality is sculpted according to the experiences and situations they are constantly being subjected to throughout life. He tells me that our organisation has given him numerous opportunities to enhance his personality and leadership skills thanks to challenging objectives and targets, which he is always wholeheartedly embracing and willing to embark on.In fact, he points out the two important aspects that we all have the opportunity to practise and develop further (thanks to the nature of our training and work): self and team confidence.Whether practising high angle rope rescue, working in a confined space, attacking a fire, performing a dive search, or providing first aid coverage in mass events, we all need each other’s support.

Whilst continuing our discussion on the advantages of being a leader at the EFRU, I also ask David whether there were any drawbacks at all which he has experienced so far:

‘‘One of biggest advantages of being a leader is the benefit of seeing the full picture of the project / task or mission, and overseeing it from start to end. This allows for more focus on the objective, permitting the pre-empting of any possible stumbling blocks, and taking quick and proactive decisions to ensure that all goals are successfully achieved. We have to keep in mind that our primary aim in each and every exercise is the safety of the rescuers themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes achieving all the set goals is not an easy task, especially in view of the time constraints, equipment limitations and mounting pressure from the team members, bystanders and senior OICs. Reality is not always plain sailing. Most of the times, a leader finds himself improvising, and without jeopardising safety, devising different techniques. But it is thanks to these difficulties and challenges that we all grow stronger. As the saying goes: ‘Train hard, fight easy’’’

David is also one of those people who are always very positive and find solutions for every problem that they face. In my next question, I ask him about the major challenges that he has faced at the EFRU. More importantly, I want to know how David and the team have worked to improve any challenging situations:

‘’I believe the two major challenges we face are limited funds and finite human resources. Having said that, thanks to the dedication, strategic planning, hard work and endless hours invested by both our committee and our members; we have not only managed to overcome these limitations, but also managed to expand the organisation and become one of the most reputable local organisations, whilst also earning our place as an internationally recognised rescue voluntary organisation.’’

Another aspect which I often reflect upon is time, and how we do not seem to have enough of it. Most often, so many people say they find the prospect of voluntary work too difficult due to their other commitments. David tells me how he manages to balance the different aspects of his professional work, his personal life and the EFRU:

‘’It all depends on one’s priorities in life. If a person is really dedicated, self-disciplined and willing to actively engage in voluntary work (such as the EFRU), one will fight tooth and nail to commit himself.Family support also plays a contributing factor here. I have to admit though, finding time is not that easy. Working in a voluntary organisation is a give and take scenario … in exchange for the dedicated time and effort, one will be rewarded with experiences of a lifetime, and a strong sense of belonging; as our motto reads ‘taking pride in helping others’. All these experiences make us all one big EFRU family.’’

Whilst drawing this interview to a close, I ask David whether he has any particular message which he would like to end on. Once again, his response is perfectly altruistic and sums up the tone of our entire conversation:

“I would like to conclude by thanking Miriam for her constant support, the Committee for their very hard work, Charlene for her patience during the interview, all members for their dedication in the various aspects of the organisation, and last but not least all personnel who spent long hours waiting (sometimes even deprived of toilet access) for me. As Bob Marley used to say: ‘Live for yourself and you will live in vain. Live for others and you will live again’.”

Charlene Schembri
EFRU Rescuer

Interview with David Spiteri

March 28, 2015 in Member Interviews

Age: 291929606_10151969237015656_2079573896_n
Occupation: Senior Professional – Laboratory

For this edition’s team member interview, I sit down to have an entertaining chat with David Spiteri. First off I ask him to describe himself and his answer is ‘Aaargh!’, as he hates to answer such questions. Apparently his manager describes him as a ‘masochist’, since he is very hard on himself. David can be very modest as well, as he asks me whether he’s mentioned the fact he is good looking, tall and quite a charmer! Truth be told my fellow team member is a perfectionist who enjoys giving his best, even if excellence seems impossible at times. There is always room for improvement, and his perfectionism in a way stems from his idealism. He wants to make the world a better place, otherwise, what would be the point of volunteering?

Delving into the interview, I ask David whether his occupation ties with his voluntary work at the EFRU:

“No, my occupation is totally different. Nowadays, unfortunately, being part of a team and managing a laboratory most of the time means that I am attached to a desk in front of a laptop. Voluntary work at the EFRU not only allows me to participate in the much needed physical exercise; it allows me to learn new things in relation to rescue, first aid and other things.All this whilst meeting with some very good friends.”

I continue with one of my favourite questions, which usually tells me a lot about my team mates. In fact, I ask David which aspects he particularly enjoys from the various activities and training we conduct at the EFRU:

“Rescue training is one of my favourites, and (I hope David Cristina does not read this), the tougher it is, the more I enjoy it! During such training all of the team excels, and the feeling I get when I know that the person next to me has my back… is inexpiable.”

He is cheekily referring to David Cristina who conducts our basic rescue training sessions. David Cristina prepares structured basic rescue training sessions for all of the new recruits. David Cristina prepares structured training sessions for us on a weekly basis, giving us a good mix of physical exercise and technical knowledge. Every week we wait in anticipation to find out which new challenge awaits us!

Back to our interviewee,who I know contributes in another way to the EFRU on a regular basis, as one of our excellent first aid instructors. He tells me that he was always particularly interested in the biological sciences and human anatomy. First aid literally allows us to help people, sometimes we can even save lives! Whilst admitting it may sound slightly cliché, David confirms that being part of a team which is saving a life is truly rewarding. He describes his experience as an instructor at the EFRU in detail:

“Being one of the first aid instructors is truly rewarding. When the EFRU executive committee approached me to become one of the instructors, I must say that I hesitated, as I was not sure if I was competent enough for the task. After some convincing, I decided to take up the challenge. From that day onwards I never looked back. During my first aid units, I tend to give more detail than what is strictly required. This is because I enjoy teaching students about the general information underlying first aid concepts. Even though some ideas may be difficult at first, my biological background and the use of acronyms aid me in explaining to and interacting with the students. Till now I have always been satisfied with the outcome, even though I hope that eventually the EFRU will be able to find sponsors for the purchase of more training material such as AED trainers, interactive boards and also more first aid dummies.”

Whilst rounding up on the subject of first aid, I ask David whether he can describe any incidents where he acted as a first aider in everyday life. He tells me that ‘thankfully’, aside from EFRU duties he was never involved in a major incident that required him to give first aid. Evidently, since he works in a laboratory, it is common for people to have very minor injuries that require some attention.

Turning back to David’s overall experience at the EFRU, I try to find out which experience was the most exciting for him.

“One of the most exciting experiences at the EFRU must be while we are doing ladder work. To be completely honest I always had a fear of heights, even though I have never really mentioned this to anyone at EFRU, so shhh!“

Indeed, I can attest to the fact that through EFRU a number of members have conquered different fears. So much so that we start looking forward to activities we may once have thought twice before trying! Aside from such challenges, being a volunteer with EFRU enriches your personality with other attributes. In fact, David tells me that he has become assertive and somewhat of an extrovert through our teamwork. Also, he exclaims, he has learned quite a number of knots! These can come in quite handy in daily life.

As you know, we are always on the lookout for new volunteers. So my last question for David is whether he would recommend joining the EFRU to others. His answer speaks for itself, and echoes my sentiments exactly:

“Without hesitation! I normally get bored easily. In fact I have joined several groups, and tried out several voluntary organisations. The EFRU is different; it is something that cannot be explained in words, except by saying… It is my second family….”

Charlene Schembri
EFRU Rescuer

Interview with Matthew Mizzi

December 31, 2014 in Member Interviews

Matthew MizziAge: 24
Occupation: QA with a software development company

It is the much awaited holiday season and I sit down to prepare some questions for my fellow EFRU team member, Matthew Mizzi. We are corresponding by email due to the various activities which arise at this time of year, and as I read his email I smile at his good natured and amiable answers which are very characteristic of him. Matthew describes himself as being a very adventurous and outgoing person. In his own words, he is almost always one of the first people to climb down a rope or to crawl inside a tunnel. As I have experienced myself as a recently recruited member, he is always ready to give a helping hand to someone in need. Moreover, he is the first to emphasise that over the years the EFRU has had a strong positive influence on the way he thinks and react, and on his character as a whole.

My first question to Matthew regards when and how he discovered the EFRU, and what prompted him to join the Unit.

‘Basically I was always very interested in firefighting and rescue. A couple of years ago I started researching volunteer teams in Malta and decided to check out the EFRU. I was instantly hooked when I saw how dedicated and proud all the members of this organisation were.’

I can honestly say that my recruitment a couple of months ago happened in the same manner. Since there is such a variety of activities and work carried out at the EFRU, I ask Matthew which particular aspects he enjoys the most.

‘This must be one of the hardest questions in this interview as there are many aspects I love in our organisation, but I will stick to the main three. Firstly I have to mention our close knit ties, we are members of a large family. When your life hangs from a rope a couple of storeys up, you must have the utmost trust in those team mates who are lowering you down, to help someone. Secondly, it is the sense of adventure in what we do. Thanks to the EFRU I have been in quite a number of places and taken part in a number of activities that few people have had the luck to experience. Such an example was abseiling down Auberge de Castille, and training in Italy with our Italian counterparts. Thirdly it is that sense of pride and joy we feel after a successful deployment or duty. Simply going home knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life today is awesome. One memory that comes to mind very sharply is that of Graham Sansone who unluckily was hurt whilst filming a stunt on the Comminotto cliffs.’

Most of our team members would agree whole heartedly with Matthew on this. His answer is comprehensive and true to form as he is a pleasantly talkative person. I also ask Matthew about his main occupation, and he tells me that he works as a software tester with an international software development company. He goes on to explain that basically he checks that the software which is released on the market is of top standard, and that he also develops automated tests. He admits that this job has him inside an office all day. Since I know that he also does a very significant amount of IT related work with the EFRU, I ask him about the way in which his full-time occupation fits in.

‘Given my experience and strong background in IT, I take care of all IT related needs for our organisations (both the EFRU and EVOLSAR). These duties range from website maintenance and new development, to simple tasks such as setting up a new email account for one of our members. This usually entails quite a number of email exchanges with the PR Team and executive committee, and a couple of late nights to end up with something amazing such as our respective websites. When I’m not in front of my laptop, I’m usually dangling from a rope or pulling up a stretcher which gives me some time to enjoy the fresh air which is a huge bonus compared to most stuff we do today which tends to keep us more and more indoors.’

The more people I meet at the EFRU and in general, the more I realise how much work goes into it and how hectic life can become. Therefore I ask Matthew how he manages his agenda. He tells me it is not an easy task, and jokingly adds that he has been asking for more than 24 hours in a day for ages, yet his wish hasn’t been answered. He emphasises the importance of getting your priorities in order, even if it means working for an extra couple of hours at night or missing a duty due to an important meeting at work.

Since so much work and dedication goes in to making the EFRU function in the best manner possible, my next question for Matthew is whether he thinks more resources are required for the EFRU. He tells me the following:

‘Today the EFRU has grown quite a bit compared to when I first joined, making us much more operationally capable and increasing the number of trained volunteers available when it comes to a deployment. Having said this I do not believe that there is ever a limit to the number of volunteers one can have as when disaster strikes you need as many hands as possible.’

On the other hand financially the expenses of purchasing new equipment and maintenance are pretty exorbitant, so we definitely need all the help we can get here.’
With this sobering answer, I delve into my last question for Matthew, before I let him enjoy the Christmas spirit in peace. In fact, I ask him whether he, like all of us at the EFRU, would encourage more people to join the Unit. Matthew leaves us with this wonderful recommendation:

‘Definitely! Apart from technical fire and rescue skills one learns whilst training, along the years I have learnt quite a few life lessons that I always keep at the back of my mind.My best referral to date must be my mum, who is a pretty active member in the unit and is also our unit’s doctor. I must say that thanks to the unit I have seen a new side of my mum, one I have never seen before and this has really strengthened our relationship! So a definite thumbs up to all interested in joining, no matter your age or capabilities.’

So with these powerful words from our proud team member, I take my leave and on behalf of the EFRU I wish you all very happy holidays. And remember, stay safe!

Charlene Schembri

Interview with Deborah Cefai

October 3, 2014 in Member Interviews

NAME: Deborah CefaiDebbie
AGE: 31
OCCUPATION: Senior QC Analyst (Pharmaceutical Industry)
POSITION WITHIN THE EFRU:  First Aid Coordinator, Editor of the EFRU newsletter

Now this is what I call efficiency! My article is being reviewed and edited as I write it … well that’s because the interviewee happens to be the editor of our quarterly newsletter. Yes, Debbie (as she prefers to be called) does most of the background work that goes into producing interesting EFRU newsletters, from setting the contents, coordinating the writing tasks, ensuring deadlines are met and also quality checking and editing the articles.

Debbie joined the EFRU in September 2010 (Happy Anniversary! Now where’s the cake, seriously?!) after having been introduced by a friend. She claims to have been immediately hooked:

“The EFRU incorporated all of the activities that I was previously interested in, such as abseiling and knot work, along with so many more new and exciting activities.  Couple that with helping others and it’s the perfect combination.”

Since joining the EFRU, Debbie has been among the most dedicated members, always trying to motivate others (as I can vouch for myself) and also aiming to excel at whatever she does. That is what led the committee to assign to her the task of coordinating the delivery of first aid courses. This involves managing a team of first aid instructors to make sure the course contents are kept up to date and that the course delivery is tailored for the attendees… and this apart from being an instructor herself. Over and above the roles of First Aid Coordinator and Newsletter Editor, Debbie is a qualified rescuer, participating in practically all rescue disciplines, be it rope access, search and rescue, K9, firefighting and rescue diving. Her preferred, though, is Confined Space Rescue…

“… because of the inherent challenges that are faced, such as limited space to work in and the need to really be creative in the extraction of a casualty from such conditions.”

But the EFRU is not only about dire situations involving casualties waiting to be rescued. EFRU is also about having fun practising adventurous sports such as abseiling. In fact, asked about the most memorable moments with EFRU, Debbie recounts without hesitation her very first abseiling training session. I can still see her “dancing” happily on the cliff face with an amazing view in the background.

As with all the other members of EFRU, Debbie has a professional career outside of EFRU – she graduated in Biology and Chemistry, and is currently supervising a laboratory in a pharmaceutical company, testing medicines before being released onto the market. Quite a responsibility, I think… so I ask how does she manage? Being the humble person she is, Debbie credits her “fantastic team”. Teamwork is clearly a common subject between her work and the EFRU. She also points out how the EFRU has helped her grow as a person, which in turn helps her in her private and professional life. Likewise, she brings back to the EFRU the skills that she learns at work.

“In both areas of my life, there are certain key members who, directly or indirectly, have given me the encouragement and tools needed to continue developing and improving.”

Debbie admits, though, that there is no magical formula to finding the perfect balance between private life, work and the EFRU. She defines this as a work in progress, always learning how to prioritise all the tasks. Again she highlights the importance of having supportive people by her side and to work alongside others rather than try to manage everything alone. It is also important to have hobbies or pastimes to break the everyday routine and wind down. EFRU activities are among some of Debbie’s favourite pastimes, along with cycling, reading and the occasional dive.

Closing off this interview, Debbie has the following advice to pass on to current EFRU members and potential new recruits:

“Try something new, especially if it scares you.  The bigger the challenge, the more you’ll enjoy completing/conquering it.  Help out whenever you can – even the smallest action can make a big difference in someone’s life.”

 

Joseph Bonnici
EFRU Rescue Volunteer