Portugal 2015

December 6, 2015 in U.S.A.R.

Earthquakes are synonymous with destruction and the creation of difficult situations for victims and relatives; rescue teams need to be prepared and willing to provide the necessary expertise to effect rescue. In view of this, the rescue simulation held in Portugal, SAR DAY 2015, to which the EFRU assigned 7 members, provided the organisation with invaluable experience for Earthquake rescue preparedness. The EFRU rescue team took part in a 24-hour simulation of an earthquake, where it had to perform various rescue exercises to extricate victims from demolished buildings and debris.

The simulation, organised by the volunteer rescue team – Escola Portuguesa de Salvamento (EPS) of Portugal – saw a number of rescue teams from the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Serbia, Greece, Cyprus, Hungary and the USA coming together. The intense simulation was segmented into three shifts of work and three shifts of rest, as one would expect in a real life situation. The exercises ranged from extrication of a victim from a small building through various walls to the extrication of a victim from the first floor of a hospital building. The latter was the most challenging of them all as the team had to overcome a number of hurdles to reach the victim. The only access to the victim was through the basement and the victim could only be reached through a confined shaft thanks to a combination of ladders and wood support while another route had to be sorted out for the actual victim rescue.

This simulation was the second edition of EVOLSAR’s annual exercise, with the first one being held in Italy on the 10th of May 2014, the foundation day of EVOLSAR.  EVOLSAR – the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams – was founded by five (5) rescue teams: the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (Malta), Edelweiss (Italy), Escola Portuguesa de Salvamento (Portugal), Cyprus Civil Protection Volunteer Corps, and Elite Special Task Force (Greece).  This meeting in Portugal has seen the accession of Serve On (UK), another volunteer rescue team accessing into EVOLSAR. The Association now boasts of six (6) hard working volunteer organisations that have together managed to source funding from the ERASMUS+ Programme to compile a Volunteer’s Rescue Manual by bringing together each team’s expertise and knowledge.

The EFRU Director, Mr Ivan Barbara spoke about the importance of these simulations, how they prepare rescue teams for real life situations and on the benefits of the EU funded programme (ERASMUS+): “When working with various international teams you come across various challenges.Mostly, the way things are done and the language barrier come into play, so explaining things may not always be easy. This manual will help us follow the same instructions when on a rescue exercise which, in other words, will help us speak one ‘rescue language’, all following the same methods and instructions.”

The EVOLSAR teams and other networked volunteer organisations shall meet again in February as part of the aforementioned EU funded programme for an organised 5-day training activity, where EFRU will be hosting approximately 40 rescuers from various countries.

The next official exercise (2016 – 3rd edition) for EVOLSAR will be organised in Italy in April 2016 by Edelweiss.

Andrew Zammit Manduca
EFRU Rescuer