Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams: Destination Malta, 2016

February 21, 2016 in General, U.S.A.R.

February 2016 was very much anticipated by the members of the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams,or as it is better known, EVOLSAR, because it marked the onset of a multinational EU project under the umbrella of ERASMUS+. It is an exciting time for all, but it is especially so for the local team – the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) – which has not only been entrusted with the presidency of EVOLSAR for over a year, but is also leading this two-year project. As the name implies, ‘Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams’ is anincentive which foresees volunteering rescue teams from across Europe working together to fine-tune rescue techniques and practices. Although this project is the first of its kind, it is the fruit of a legacy that started several years ago and which was significantly strengthened over the past twelve months.

This project’s first training activity put Malta in the spotlight once again with four full days of rescue operations in simulated scenarios, round-table discussions and extra-curricular activities which are fundamental for enhancing the synergy that is so elemental to the project objectives. The rescue operations varied not only in type and methods but also in terms of locations, terrain and the contextual frameworks in which they were carried out. The methods and techniques ranged from high-angle rescue to confined space and urban search and rescue, all within varying surroundings: from cliff faces to undulating clay dunes and from the bouldering shores to underground tunnels and the built-up environment. Throughout this training activity, rescuers from within different volunteering teams and of different nationalities worked together in multinational groups, each time with the same objective: that of conducting good rescue practices and extract casualties in the most effective manner. One cannot but commend the professional level to which the simulations were organised, obviously through countless hours of preparation, efficient liaison with local authorities and the commitment of volunteers outside the organisation who provided for realistic casualties. What ultimately stands out,however, is how seriously the training was taken by every individual involved. Simulated rescues are hardly a simulation to the rescuers themselves. Training is treated with utmost respect and each scenario is professionally handled, so that when reality hits these rescuers can do what they do best: work together to save lives.

Needless to say, this project would not have been in the least conceivable without the support of external entities that have chosen to be part of this phenomenon. Particularly in relation to the Erasmus+ funding, MEUSAC and EUPA have provided invaluable assistance in the application process and the project implementation and management process respectively. Last but not least, to each of the teams: a heartfelt thanks and a boost of encouragement. A few years ago, EVOLSAR was only EFRU’s far-fetched dream. Today it is very much alive and kicking, living up to the good name that it has made since inception and standing as a testimony to the fact that where there is good will, there is indeed a way.

Iona Muscat
EFRU Rescuer