Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams: The point of view of the youngest member involved.

March 12, 2016 in Interviews

I have recently had the opportunity to participate and be involved in a training exercise organised by the EFRU for the team members of EVOLSAR as part of the Erasmus+ KA2 Strategic Partnerships program. Participants from various countries and different age groups took part in a 5-day exercise which simulated different emergency scenarios in which the teams could train together to improve their interoperability.

I joined the EFRU at around May, 2015 and have been actively training with the organisation since. During training I learned how real-life rescue operations are handled and familiarized myself with the basic procedures and techniques of different rescue disciplines, such as rope rescue and Urban Search and Rescue.  Through training I also had the opportunity to get better acquainted with the other EFRU members, so much so that I now consider them as brothers and sisters in unity for one cause, something which is fundamental when it comes to real-life rescue scenarios.

Although it had all the exciting characteristics of previous exercises, this particular activity was a category of its own and brought the excitement of training to a completely different level. Most notable was the fact that the exercise brought together people from different cultural and social backgrounds to train together. I had the privilege to partake in all key activities and as much fun as it was, I admit is was also, perhaps, the biggest hurdle: working with people who speak different languages and use different techniques is no easy task. This is precisely the issue that the project is set to address: achieving interoperability through practice and teamwork.

Being the youngest participating member and also one with little experience in rescue training, this exercise revealed some new realities for me. Although I thought I may not have much to offer, it turned out that my participation was greatly appreciated and that I am always welcome by the other members, both at EFRU and EVOLSAR levels. I also learnt how much there is to take back from giving one’s time and effort to such cause. Finally, this experience has also given me the motivation to continue my involvement within EFRU because there is much to learn and the more I learn, the more I am able to give. As with all rewarding causes in life, the more I give, the more I get back in return.

This exercise was overall a great experience, even though it required a lot of sacrifice from the organizational aspect. This sacrifice, however, was worth its weight in gold as the exercise turned out to be not only a successful one, but also a milestone which saw the growth of a very strong bond between team members of this multinational volunteer organization. Achieving interoperability is still our sole main goal and we’re a few good yards away from finally getting there, yet, we will keep working together and, as we successfully did countless times, we will put our differences behind us and look on our common aims with confidence and ambition. Someday, soon enough, we will surely get there.

Isaac Zammit

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Interview with Graham Sansone

December 31, 2014 in Interviews

Age: 3110383890_791091254243564_8374442744771014487_n
Occupation: Survivalist & learning support assistant.

For our feature interview this month I have the pleasure to get to know the Maltese Survivor, Graham Sansone. I have followed his programs on NET television, and welcome the opportunity to gain some insight into his way of life. Graham tells me that his fascination with survival strategies started back when he was a teenager in 1997. He had started reading several books related to military tactics, and he comments that in those days wilderness survival was not a familiar concept in Malta. In fact at the time there were no related programs on Maltese television.

The Maltese survivor recounts that the idea of living off the wilderness was always intriguing for him, spurring him to later continue his studies on wilderness survival in the UK. He undertook these studies under the supervision of various ex SAS soldiers, as well as Ray Mears who he quotes as a well-known survival expert in the UK having had several survival series broadcasted on the BBC.

My opening question to Graham is what motivated him to teach survival skills to others.

‘‘Teaching such skills was important for me to move forward. I felt a sense of urgency that I should pass on my skills and knowledge to others. So I designed several courses both locally and abroad for people to understand the world around them.’’

Next, I indulge my curiosity and ask Graham what I’m sure many of you have often wondered, do worms and wild plants actually taste good?

‘‘All plants taste good as they are just like the plants we eat in a salad. Some are actually much tastier than the ones we have in our supermarkets. Contrary to what most people would think, insects are very tasty especially when cooked. Unfortunately there are times when I don’t have the luxury to cook them, so I have to eat them raw.’’

From the above I have already gained some insight into Graham’s personality and passion for survival. To take things a step further I ask whether his family likes and fits in with his lifestyle. He tells me that admittedly it is very difficult to balance and juggle between a career and having a family, especially when he is away for a number of days or weeks to do his courses. Fortunately, however, he is very lucky to have found a formula which works well, even though it is not easy at all.

In the remaining time for the interview I move our focus towards his experience with the EFRU. Graham learnt about our Unit from a friend of his who joined the team. My team mate in fact told Graham about our vast experience and the different specialised sub-units. This is why the Maltese Survivor chose the EFRU to assist him during the Comino challenge, where he dove off a cliff. Furthermore he tells me patriotically, that being the Maltese Survivor he chose the EFRU as it is the only rescue organisation which is strictly of Maltese origin.

During the filmed stunt, the EFRU members were organised into smaller teams: ambulance, abseil and marine. As Graham emphasised, these teams were working like a Swiss watch, all synchronized together. He was impressed at the speed at which they setup the equipment and the organization and discipline required behind such a challenge. In his own words: ‘’If these teams were not strategically placed on the day of the challenge, I wouldn’t be here doing this interview. ‘’

After this sobering statement I ask the Maltese survivor, were you excited or nervous about the dive? Especially at that moment when you were standing at the edge of the cliff ready to take the plunge?

‘’Yes I was excited, but confident. Although I had done the jump previously alone, this time I had an audience as well as a little bit of acting which is not easy when you have a dive that is approximately 35 meters high and a depth of 6 meters in just one particular place, as the rest was much shallower. So the pressure was on. I felt even more nervous when the wind picked up just before the dive, which to be honest did effect my performance. ‘’

I understand that this situation must have been tough for Graham. My next question follows: upon landing in the water you were unconscious for a short while, what came to mind when you woke up and were being transported on a dinghy to the ambulance by the EFRU team?

‘’When I jumped off the cliff, I realized that I was not going to land well. After that I did my best to land in the best way possible. After awakening I felt secure to have assistance around me as well as a collaborated team effort. I didn’t feel any pain but since I was told to remain immobile a million things passed through my mind. The journey was and felt short, and I can say that I felt comforted that all was going to be well so that helped me a lot.’’

The Maltese survivor goes on to tell me what his feelings were on seeing the outcome of the challenge and whether he recommends the Unit to assist during other events:

‘’I felt good as we managed to capture a 3 second clip of the jump which gave a dramatic effect in the opening theme of the program Maltese Survivor. I was also glad that I was ok, and just had a bruised shoulder and not much else. All in all I was happy with the outcome, even if it meant I had to jump off the cliff and getting myself hurt in the process. ‘’

‘’I think people out there need to recognize the unit more and use your services as it is a loss for them if they do not do so. EFRU is a well-built structure which offers a variety of different services related to rescue and assistance. ‘’

With this last question I thank Graham for his time and appreciation of our efforts at the EFRU, and he takes his leave with this message:

‘’I think that the EFRU and Maltese Survivor have got a lot in common. Both structures are originally Maltese, and both offer our country a service. Both organisations are different but with an equal aim, to teach people the preservation of life. I think people if interested in survival or in rescue should look within such organizations and appreciate that for a country the size of Malta we have got lots to offer. Unfortunately many do not appreciate the resources we have around us. I highly suggest that people follow our respective Facebook pages as well as our websites to learn more about us.‘’



On this encouraging note the team at the EFRU send all their best for the coming year, 2015. May it be a happy and safe one for all.

Charlene SchembriGraham Sansone being strapped into the rescue dinghy