Rescue 2014 and EURO SAR Birth

July 2, 2014 in General

The 10th of May 2014 shall mark one of the most significant milestones in the successful journey of the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) as the team, alongside four fellow rescue teams, signed the agreement which gave birth to Europe’s first association of volunteering Civil Protection teams: EURO SAR.

As in previous years, the EFRU participated in an international rescue simulation – Rescue 2014 – organized by the Italian Edelweiss in the mountainous region of Calabria. The exercise has now become something of an annual tradition and, most notably, a yearly appointment for the EFRU members to meet their fellow rescuers from abroad. This year’s exercise saw the participation of rescue teams from no less than 9 different countries, namely Italy, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Serbia, Hungary, Great Britain and the USA. While some countries were being represented for the first time, for most teams, including Italy’s several supporting participants (the Protezione Civile Nazionale, the Croce Rossa Italiana, the CISOM, the Associazione A.R.I. and the Angeli Della Sila) this was yet another occasion to meet colleague rescuers and friends within this cross-border brotherhood.

However, the ‘Rescue 2014’ operation was not all there was to this year’s trip to Calabria. Following the international 24-hour exercise, the EFRU’s leaders finally sat round the table with the leaders of four other volunteering rescue teams to launch the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams.  The Association – which goes by the name EURO SAR – foresees the long-term collaboration of several European rescue teams, all of which operate on a voluntary basis. The five founder member teams are Malta’s Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit, the Italian Edelweiss, the Elite Special Task Force of Greece, the Cyprus Civil Protection Volunteer Corps and the Escola Portuguesa de Salvamento from Portugal. The purpose behind EURO SAR is to create a common European platform for collaboration and sharing of best practices within the field of rescue and emergency response. The signing of the Association’s statute is being considered as the first step towards what shall eventually be a unified rescue team made up of volunteering members from all across Europe and fully-equipped – with the essential equipment and complementary expertise – to respond in cases of emergency in countries within the European Union and beyond.

The first meeting between the five EURO SAR teams saw a unanimous vote being taken in favour of EFRU for the first six-month presidency of the Association. Therefore, for the moment, EFRU is busy making the necessary preparations to gain the essential momentum for EURO SAR’s start-up.  The Association’s motto is the principle which drove EURO SAR into existence and a common sentiment that governs the present and future missions of the Association: ‘Only when we are together, we can be strong’ (Pasquale Pipicelli, Edelweiss).