Light at the end of the tunnel

June 2, 2020 in Informational

Prior to any of our customary introductions, we must start this update by wishing all our readers well and hoping that each and every one of you is keeping safe. These are, indeed, strange times.

As with everything else affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, our organisation has had to adapt to this unprecedented reality. Proudly, we can say that it did so successfully, but not without its fair share of sacrifices …and tons and tons of collective effort and innovation. Due to safety restrictions, physical weekly training has obviously had to be indefinitely suspended. As you might have guessed, however, that does not mean that our volunteers have been resting on their laurels the entire time!  (Hah! Our leaders would personally make sure we have no laurels left to rest on, before allowing anything like that to happen! )

Those of you who have been keeping an eye on our facebook page know that last year, the EFRU had embarked on a rather ambitious project funded by the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme, which funds are managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector. The project, named Continuous Technical Skill Development of the Volunteer Rescuer in Emergency Aid, is aimed at enhancing the teaching resources of the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit, whilst broadening the Unit’s course portfolio in the medical field. Through this project, the EFRU is investing in both beginners and long-serving volunteers so that they may continue to provide professional services in the delicate and challenging situations that they may be called to assist in. The project is discussed in detail in a separate contribution by our colleague MariaElena Zammit. For the time being, it is worth mentioning that among the objectives reached prior to the onset of the pandemic are: the upgrade to an ITLS training level of our Advanced First-Aid instructors, a much needed boost to our USAR training facilities, the introduction of the new technical library as well as an investment in the training and administrative resources of the Unit. Rather than posing a hindrance, the current situation gave the EFRU the opportunity to reconsider our methods and consolidate what had already been achieved. A lot of this work continued to happen behind closed doors, within the safety of the (very) busy households.

Speaking of households, a few of the many dedicated members have had to find ways to maintain our own housekeeping up and running, all the while ensuring to abide by regulations issued by the health authorities. The upkeep of our much-cherished vehicle fleet (such as license re-validations, general repairs and frequent battery checks) could not stop with the glitches brought about by the current situation. Preparedness to assist the national authorities, which is what the EFRU is committed to do, means just that. One has to be prepared for all potential exigencies. Whether we like it or not, emergencies do not simply check out and wait during pandemic lock-downs.

On the contrary, these very particular times have seen the EFRU grow busier, even if quieter. The Unit has assisted the Civil Protection Department (CPD) in setting up needed resources in the Department’s de-contamination area, in light of the new operations which the CPD are currently engaging in. The EFRU has not only made available three operational field tents, complete with a number of rapid deployment bunk beds, which have been acquired through a project funded by the MCCFF and are being used on the CPD base, but has also participated by having relatively all operational members trained by the CPD in the basic HAZMAT procedures. Meanwhile, our quartermaster team was busy furnishing all vehicles with basic personal protective equipment and supplies for the relative number of volunteers who may be requested to intervene in emergencies with potential COVID-19 implications.

Of all the milestones reached by the EFRU recently, one personal favourite is the series of virtual lessons being delivered by the Unit’s instructors, recently trained in ITLS. The aim is to engage in refresher and introductory discussion sessions to all the members of the Unit in the various rescue disciplines practised by the EFRU. This has been not only a great way to ensure that key-knowledge is retained, but is serving also as an excellent way of keeping the team’s spirit alive and kicking. What’s more exciting is the fact that these sessions are being recorded and kept for long-term reference on the EFRU’s online learning platform, along with other valuable resources worth sharing amongst the members, thus ensuring easy accessibility to such resources even once the issue of the pandemic is resolved.

Amidst all the uncertainties which have characterised life in the past two months, the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit has reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to its cause: that of providing our civil powers and community with a reassuring, helping hand when required. Through the hard work and positive outlook of our enthusiastic team members, the current restrictive circumstances served to demonstrate that where there is a will (and dedication), there is indeed a way. Never before has it been proven to such extent that the varied backgrounds and interests of each and every member are an invaluable asset and can be put to significant use. Although a return to ‘normality’ is hoped for, it may seem like a long way away from being attainable, at the moment. That being said, the EFRU looks at the future with a hopeful heart and a baggage of lessons-learnt which shall definitely reshape our way of looking at the little light that’s at the end of the tunnel and that is egging us on in our efforts to serve, help and protect others.

It is sincerely hoped that our humble contribution has served and will keep on serving to keep you company in these challenging times.

 

Article by: Iona Muscat (EFRU Rescuer)

 

EFRU Volunteers being trained in Basic HAZMAT Procedures

 

EFRU Volunteers being trained in Basic HAZMAT Procedures

 

EFRUs Operational Field Tents being used by the CPD

 

EFRUs Operational Field Tents being used by the CPD

 

EFRUs Operational Field Tents being used by the CPD

 

EFRUs rapid deployement Bunk Bed System

 

A number of books that have been added to the EFRU Tech Library

Online Sessions May 2020

COVID-19 Preparedness at EFRU

April 8, 2020 in Informational

The Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (#EFRU) is actively monitoring the #COVID19 pandemic situation and is currently working with the authorities, as needed. The Volunteer Unit has made its recently acquired ‘rapid deployment tents’ available to the Civil Protection Department (#CPD), together with a number of camp beds, to be used at the Marine Section in Paola as part of the broad #HAZMAT setup which has been put in place in the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The respective tents and beds have been acquired recently, through funds of the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation (#MCCFF), as part of EFRU’s two-year project ‘Volunteer Rescuer Team Preparedness in Emergency Response’.
 
A section of EFRU volunteers have also been trained in Decontamination and facilities familiarisation at the HAZMAT unit of the CPD, in preparedness to assist the Department should the needs arise.  In parallel, the Unit retains its operational status, through regular checks and maintenance of its equipment and vehicles. This is being carried out thanks to its volunteers, who are being scheduled to carry out needed tasks whilst respecting current social distancing requirements. All this, in an effort, for the Unit to retain its operational continuity, through safeguarding its human resource, in preparedness for moments of most need in these difficult times.
 
The EFRU encourages the public to stay safe and abides by the guidelines of the Authorities, for the benefit of the Community.
 
Keith Borg
Deputy Director
 
 
 

EVOLSAR Presidency

January 18, 2020 in Informational

Today marks the end of the tenure of EFRU in the EVOLSAR Presidency, represented by Ivan Barbara, after six years in action.

EFRU augurs the best of luck and good work to the new President, Pasquale Pipicelli of Edelweiss, Italy.

Newly elected President Pasquale Pipicelli shakes hands with outgoing President Ivan Barbara.

Pasquale Pipicelli represents Edelweiss, the lead team for Italy, in EVOLSAR.
Ivan Barbara represents EFRU, the lead team for Malta, in EVOLSAR, who presided over EVOLSAR since its founding in 2014.

Facilitating Emergency Communications

November 15, 2019 in Informational

The EFRU is proud to present the result of the hard work and dedication of its members in a project to build a communications console. This project has been funded by the Small Initiatives Support Scheme (SIS) managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS).
 
The communications console facilitates the management and coordination of a multi-site emergency by providing a standalone unit with workspace for 4 personnel, 2 white boards, 2 monitor screens, a base radio and electrical power outlets (including USB charging points). This unit is easily transferable to a vehicle, tent or other building serving the purpose of an emergency control centre. Furthermore, the console is powered by a silent generator and its radio may be connected to a winch-up mast that will help extend the normal range of VHF radios.
 
In addition to providing the EFRU with this useful tool, the project has also served to generate interest among EFRU members in the processes of planning, design and procurement of equipment and material, and also gave them the opportunity to participate hands-on in the building of the console from scratch. The whole unit was brought together thanks to the skills of the volunteers alone.
 
This article reflects the views only of the EFRU, and the MCVS cannot be held responsible for the content or any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
 
Joe Bonnici
EFRU Funding Manager
 

VIATICUM Project – first Transnational Meeting

November 3, 2019 in Informational

#EFRU has participated in the first #Transnational #Meeting for #VIATICUM Project – an #Erasmus+ Project being led by Edelweiss, the #EVOLSAR lead team for Italy.

Good luck Edelweiss!

Let us all strive for another successful project outcome.

This project follows on the footsteps of another #Erasmus+ project concluded in 2017, which was led by EFRU – Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams. This project had seen the publication of the #Rescue #Manual entitled Rescue Techniques for Emergency Response.

A4U – EFRU Admin Funding from Agenzija Zghazagh

October 7, 2019 in Informational

The administration office at the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit has been reinforced thanks to funding from Agenzija Zghazagh, through its A4U scheme. In this year’s project, the EFRU acquired a variety of office equipment, including a laptop, laser colour printer, laser cartridges, paper shredder and storage media.
Running a voluntary organisation requires a lot of background administrative work, which may now be conducted more efficiently thanks to this project.
 
 
 

Fire Truck Donation – London Fire Brigade

July 7, 2019 in Informational

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has generously accepted to donate one of its fire trucks to the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit. The presentation was held at Babcock International by the Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rhys Powell in the UK.

Thanks to this donation, the EFRU is expanding its operational fleet of vehicles to augment its support towards the Maltese Community.

The Unit thanks the LFB for believing in and supporting the EFRU’s cause and objectives. The EFRU looks forward to develop further the collaboration with both the LFB and Babcock.

 

2019 Sicily cycling tour

March 21, 2019 in Informational

EFRU Sicily Cycling Tour – Largest participation to date.

The Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) has organised its yearly Fund Raiser Cycling Tour over the past weekend in Sicily, attracting the largest number of cyclists to date.

As usual, the 2019 tour was spread over a period of two days, from Friday 5th to Saturday 6th April, and saw 26 participants challenge their limits whilst cycling through kilometres of undulating terrain from Catania to the city of Regalbuto in the province of Enna and back to Catania the next day.

As a backup team, the EFRU deployed two rescue vehicles which kept close to the cyclists during the tour and a third vehicle that was used to travel ahead of the team marking the planned route and making sure that the chosen roads were safe.

The first day of the tour was particularly challenging for both the cyclists and the EFRU back-up team alike since the route around Mount Etna, on the east coast of Sicily, was hit by dense fog and heavy rain which made it almost impossible for participants to cycle safely without assistance. During the thick of the storm, all the cyclists were grouped by the back-up team and slowly diverted to a safer route, cycling between the rescue vehicles for protection from oncoming traffic thus ensuring their safety.

Day two was favoured with beautiful weather, sunshine and dry roads such that the participants were able to enjoy the beauty of the Sicilian countryside whilst cycling their way from the chosen agriturismo in Regalbuto to Catania. Challenges never stopped during this tour as at exactly the 100km mark, one of the cyclists had an accident. He was treated on the spot by the EFRU advanced First Aid team before being transported in the unit’s ambulance to a close ‘Pronto Soccorso’ where he was kept for almost 24 hours of tests and observations. This meant that three of the EFRU volunteers who formed part of the back-up team backed out of the tour to join the injured cyclist to hospital whilst the rest resumed the journey with the remaining cyclists, ensuring their wellbeing and safety till the end of the route. The injured cyclist was thankfully dismissed from hospital and declared fit to travel on Sunday and was seen to by the same EFRU volunteers who had accompanied him all along this journey till he reached Malta.

Obviously, this tour would not have been possible without the assistance of those who believe in our cause. A huge thank you goes to BNF Bank plc, Freedor Ltd, Go & Fun Malta, Virtu Ferries, Fahrenheit, Simon Debattista from SDB Photography and last but not least, to the EFRU organising committee and back up team that, thanks to their time, dedication and support, have got a number of cyclists addicted to this yearly event.

EFRU Sicily Cycling Tour 2019 – Teaser Videos. Stay tuned for the full version soon. 😁 #EFRUSicilyCyclingTour #EFRU #Volunteers #JoinTheEFRU #cycling #Sicily #Malta'

Posted by Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit on Sunday, May 5, 2019

 

SIMULEX19

January 25, 2019 in Informational

 

SIMULEX19 is another event, organised by the EFRU and funded by the MCCFF, which will see more than 40 foreign rescuers work in sync with the EFRU in a number of different locations around Malta with the sole aim of supporting our island in the unfortunate event of a disaster. Stay tuned for more feeds from the field during the event.

Training Room Overhaul

October 21, 2018 in Informational

This year, the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) invested heavily in its fundamentals i.e. the tools used for the provision of lectures and courses to its strongest asset, its rescue volunteers as well as third parties.  The Unit has invested heavily in terms of time as well as financially in the development of its skilled human resource.  In return to this investment, the EFRU’s training team services its dedicated team of rescue personnel, the public and several youth groups and schools with informative and value adding sessions and courses relating to first aid skills, fire prevention awareness, safety in work at heights, urban search and rescue, rope rescue, and other advanced rescue techniques.

The EFRU took the decision to invest in its lecture room equipment to maximize the experience of trainees primarily through adequate and appropriate equipment.  The sourced equipment was intended to enhance the visual, acoustic and ergonomic experience during training sessions and this was successfuly achieved.  The EFRU, being a non-profit organisation, faces daily challenges to make ends meet in terms of financial expenses related to equipment maintenance, repairs and day-to-day running.  This is where Agenzija Żgħażagħ has supported the EFRU through its funding scheme Assistance4U which contributed a sum of €1,500 towards this project.  TITAN International supported the initiative with the sponsorship of two Air conditioning units for the same training room.

The EFRU appreciates the support of both entities in facilitating the successful outcome of the project within a shorter timeframe than it would have otherwise taken the Unit to complete the project.  It is through the intervention of such supporting entities that the EFRU can capitalise the experiential benefit of its activities for its volunteer youths and adults as well as third party youths and young adults.  The Unit is eager to undertake similar projects in the near future to continue building its resources to enhance its services to its volunteer core and the community.