OVER 25 VOLUNTEER RESCUE TEAMS MEET IN MALTA

May 6, 2017 in General

The Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) of Malta is hosting a two-day activity which will see over 120 rescue volunteers from all over Europe, the United States, Serbia and Russia, training together with one aim – that of saving lives.

This is a project funded by Erasmus+ KA2 Strategic Partnerships funding strand and is led by the EFRU, a 40-strong rescue team that was set up locally but is managing to unite rescue volunteers from around Europe and beyond. Participating teams include Edelweiss (Italy), EPS (Portugal), ETSM (aka EP.OM.E.A., Greece), CCPVC (Cyprus) and Serve On (UK), as well as other volunteer rescue teams from Hungary, Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, France, Serbia, Russia, Austria and Germany which aim to join this network in the near future. The project has been going on for the past two years with its intellectual output being a Volunteer’s Rescue Manual as a basic standard for the principal rescue techniques for volunteers in the field of civil protection to attain interoperability among the teams.

Later on in the afternoon, the EFRU will be organizing another event at Ġnien il-Kunsill tal- Ewropa, Gżira where the team will be joined by all its foreign counterparts forming part of this incredible association. The aim of this evening event is to celebrate the volunteer and to show members of the public, together with other VIPs that have been invited, the purpose behind the work that the EFRU is doing. Some of the invitees are H.E. The President of Malta, Hon. Prime Minister of Malta Dr Joseph Muscat, Hon. Minister Evarist Bartolo, Hon. Minister Carmelo Abela, Dr. Simon Busuttil and Dr. Beppe Fenech Adami. This afternoon / evening event is funded by the Small Initiatives Support Scheme as managed by the Malta Council for the Volunteer Sector and is supported by the Gżira Local Council, Vibe FM, Elmo Insurance, Firetech Ltd, OK Medical and Petzl Malta.

On Saturday 13th May, then, the rescue manual which has been developed by this network of volunteers led by the EFRU will be officially launched during a full day conference, entitled The Volunteer Rescuer – A Unified Approach, at Fort St. Angelo in Birgu. Apart from the rescue manual, a number of keynote speeches shall cover various subjects of interest, including the role of the volunteer in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, psychological aspects in rescue volunteering, team work, interoperability, harmonization and standardization of techniques.

Keith Borg
Deputy Director

Our Trainers in Training

April 4, 2017 in General

The human resource of any organisation is one to nurture and sustain. Unlike that of any other organisation, however, the human resource of volunteering NGOs is all that little bit more valuable. At EFRU, our volunteers do what they do entirely out of will and selfless commitment. But the commitment that our organisation makes to the people who might be in need of its service is a serious one on many levels. This means that the organisation must not only ensure that its members are present when and where requested, but also that they are well trained to do what they are tasked to do and deliver professionally.  Our men and women need training and support, if they expect to one day go out and save the day… or more importantly, someone’s life.

Rescuers, first aiders, fire fighters: whatever the discipline, all our volunteers are trained by the Unit’s instructors on a weekly basis. Yet even our instructors need to get their own training shoes on, so as to have their skills polished up and their methods refreshed, periodically.

This was precisely the aim behind the latest Train-the-Trainer course which was delivered to 12 EFRU instructors coming from different areas of specialisation. This training initiative – ‘Designing and Delivering Effective Training Programmes’, as it was officially called – was intended to provide these twelve members with professional guidance towards delivering lectures and training sessions, especially with respect to hands-on instruction and practical teaching material. It was aimed at improving the instructors’ communication skills and introduce them to the theories governing the teaching/learning process so that our instructors could be better equipped to adapt their teaching methods to the different audiences they might have. The course, which was delivered in its entirety by Mr Patrick Psaila had our instructors not only learn all about the said theories and audiences, but also had them delivering a practical lecture of their own. Feedback was shared amongst the class and apart from the professional feedback of Mr Psaila himself, candidates could discuss their work with their peers in a healthy environment which was – let me state the obvious, here – conductive to learning.

This opportunity would not have been for us to grab, had it not been for the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector and the funds made available through the Training Initiative Scheme. Under the umbrella of its second priority – ‘Voluntary Organisations Training Programs’ – the EFRU was not only able to apply for funds for this course, but was also encouraged to rope in another volunteering organisation, MOVE, three members of which joined the EFRU members for training. A good 85% of the funds were forked out by the MCVS while both NGOs only had to cover the remaining 15%.

It is worth pointing out that this has not been the only opportunity given to EFRU to augment knowledge in the field. A few weeks back, thanks to the support given through the Training Initiative Scheme, Priority 1, three different volunteers were given training in Portugal by professional instructors from the Escola Portuguesa de Salvamento on USAR and Cave Rescue.

Co-funded opportunities such as the ones just mentioned are well worth their weight in gold. Without them, the organisation’s chances of paying costs for valuable but expensive training would be rather meagre. For the MCVS and the local funds made available to us, we are grateful. Furthermore we cannot but thank the individuals who have not only sought and targeted these funds, but who painstakingly compiled applications and met difficult deadlines so that our cause may be heard, justified and eventually given the much-needed financial boost to make it possible.

This project has been funded through the Training Initiatives Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector.  This article reflects the views only of the author, and the MCVS cannot be held responsible for the content or any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Iona Muscat
First Aid Instructor

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Upcoming Conference – May 2017

April 4, 2017 in General

May is the month of new life, as it offers the perfect climate for beautiful plants and flowers to flourish; but in 2017 there is more meaning to this lovely month. May will be bringing with it more exciting times for the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) which is working relentlessly to organise a day conference for more than hundred and fifty volunteer rescuers from all over Europe and beyond. A first of its kind that has been made possible thanks to a number of individuals within the EFRU who, through their hard work and determination, have managed to tap the European Erasmus+ Fund totalling 156,405 Euro.

Ever since its formation back in 2006, the EFRU always had a vision: it wanted to standardise rescue training amongst European Volunteer Teams to make it more possible for them to deploy and save lives when disaster strikes. A very challenging dream that has managed to become reality thanks to dedication, perseverance and sacrifice of a number of people. The first step was the formation of a ‘networking task force’ that analysed and conducted background checks on a number of teams whom the members thought would fit the description. Once decided upon, each team was contacted and/or visited to discuss in-depth the reasoning behind the EFRU’s plan and thereon a number of training exercises took place. In May 2014, five European teams were prepared to join forces for one common cause – that of saving lives. In a ceremony held in Italy, teams from the hosting country Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Malta signed and formed EVOLSAR, the European Association of Volunteer Rescue Teams. The organisation was an instant success, generating interest from a number of other volunteer teams across the globe. To date, teams from the UK, Hungary and Spain have already joined EVOLSAR and others from the United States, Russia, Serbia and France are working very closely with the organisation.

This led the EFRU into tapping and managing an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships fund for the development of a Rescue Manual which would serve as a reference; hence standardising the basic rescue training for the project partner teams and ultimately teams within EVOLSAR. The project is seeing teams of six nationalities; namely the UK, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Malta working hard for two whole years only to develop the aforementioned intellectual output which will be officially launched this coming May here in Malta.

So what are the EFRU’s plans for this coming May?

On the 12th and 13th of May the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit will be making history, managing to get together teams from all over Europe to as far as the USA and Russia for a multi-scenario rescue simulation on the Friday morning and an Open Day for the Maltese public in the afternoon (where those present will be able to know more about EFRU, EVOLSAR and all those who form part of this organisation). A full day conference will follow on Saturday the 13th presenting the Rescue Manual together with various Key Note speeches from local authorities and foreign delegates incorporating the role and importance of the rescue volunteer.

Behind this programme is a huge amount of work and one cannot but thank those dedicated volunteers who have spent countless sleepless nights ensuring that the conference, the manual and all that comes with them are planned to perfection. Added gratitude goes to those volunteer teams who have believed in the EFRU’s dream and gave their fair share for the said manual to be completed.

SAR Day 2016

January 2, 2017 in General

The fourth edition of SAR day, held in Peniche, Portugal, marked the last foreign event in the very busy EFRU calendar this year. SAR day has become an annual 24 hour rescue exercise, organised by Escola Portuguesa de Salvamento and Bombeiros Voluntarios de Peniche, which gathers together several local and foreign rescue teams to practise working together. These teams, most of which are entirely made up of volunteers, prepare themselves in case a real disaster necessitates a big rescue effort that overwhelms the resources of the affected region.

This year, the exercise simulated a weather-related event hitting the lower half of the Portuguese coast, with the area around Peniche being the most affected. Every time, the organisers strive to make the tasks as accurate and realistic as possible. This year they definitely overdid themselves, as by the start of the exercise, the sky darkened and from then onwards it was one rain shower after the other. The exercise did not stop though. Despite real weather warnings, the rescue teams deployed to the simulated accident sites and performed their tasks in challenging but realistic conditions.

The EFRU participated in the exercise on two fronts: there were members who teamed up with other local and foreign rescuers and deployed on a number of tasks ranging from wild fire fighting, to USAR, rope and cliff rescue. Meanwhile, the team leaders took on an important role in the OSOCC (On-site Operations Coordination Centre) assessing the needs that every task presented, matching available resources  and deploying teams and equipment to carry out the task.

All in all, it was another great experience, full of valuable learning points, but also an opportunity to meet other dedicated people all selflessly giving their time to prepare for when they need to help others in distress. The great hospitality offered by the organisers and the hosts (BombeirosVoluntarios de Peniche) further added to the success of SAR Day 2016, and keeps everyone looking forward to next year’s edition.

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Cave Rescue Training

January 2, 2017 in General

Over the past months, a number of rescue volunteers from the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) took the golden opportunity offered by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector and made valuable use of the funds awarded in relation to the 2016 Training Initiatives Scheme Priority 1.

One of the beneficiary volunteers who applied for this scheme participated in a five day intense Technical Cave Search and Rescue (CSR) training course organised in the majestic yet hostile caves within the region of Lisbon and Tagus Valley, Portugal.  The specialised training was delivered by the seasoned instructors from Escola Portuguesa de Salvamento (EPS), one of the five founder members within the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams (EVOLSAR).

The cave rescue course participants, constituting from rescue personnel from various organisations including Bombeiros Voluntários De Peniche, EPS SAR team, and Grupo de Intervenção de Proteção e Socorro, underwent in detail the numerous techniques exploited in these difficult and demanding conditions first in a training environment and later in various real life conditions.  Cave search and rescue is a technical speciality which does not only employ elements from firefighting, confined space rescue, rope rescue and mountaineering techniques, but also utilises its own special dynamic procedures and skills.  Such type of rescue manoeuvres from caves, tunnels or mines are slow and deliberate operations that require a high level of organised teamwork and good communication between the rescuers. The extreme conditions and environment within caves, including vertical drops, humidity, temperature, water, mud and restricted space, dictate every aspect of a cave rescue.

While Malta is not particularly notorious for caves, we have our fair share of caves, wells and underground shelters.  One must be adequately trained to deal with the unfortunate need for a search and rescue from one of these underground caverns, where a single mistake can jeopardise not only the life of the trapped casualty, but also that of the rescuers themselves.

Quoting a Spanish novelist in the 16th century … ‘To be prepared is half the victory’.

The EFRU is a committed organisation which believes in constant training, and thanks to its devoted voluntary members, is always prepared and ready to help out the constituted authorities in case of a national calamity.

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Emergency Services Show

December 30, 2016 in General

The Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) travelled to the United Kingdom, from the 21st to the 25th of September 2016, to visit the Annual Emergency Services Show and also to chair the 4th transnational meeting amongst Project Partners involved in the ERASMUS+ Project – Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams; a meeting set to give the necessary updates on the progress of work carried out on the Rescue Manual, and set the plan of action for the remaining part of the project.

On the 21st and 22nd of September the EFRU members visited the Show at the NEC, in Birmingham. This kind of EXPO, which focuses on equipment and techniques used in emergencies, gives the opportunity to individuals working in the sector and volunteers like us, to get to know, meet and discuss with over four hundred different suppliers that focus in various emergency-specific fields, such as; search and rescue equipment, vehicles and vehicular equipment systems, personal protective equipment (PPE) and uniforms, communications and IT equipment, first response equipment, hazardous material equipment, medical equipment, training equipment and much more.

This year, a total of nine (9) members from the EFRU visited the Emergency Services Show. To maximise the time spent there, the EFRU delegates focused on the collection of information, catalogues and contact details of different suppliers related to various but specific fields of relevance to EFRU, including communications, uniforms, PPE, emergency vehicles and networking.

Following the show, the EFRU volunteers travelled to Salisbury where they also chaired an intensive transnational meeting amongst six countries that are participating in the Erasmus + KA2 Strategic Partnership project for which funds have been secured by the EFRU back in 2015.The program for this project shall see the compilation of a rescue manual intended for the volunteer team members of EVOLSAR (The European Association Of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams), to be launched in May 2017.

Katya Sammut
EFRU Rescuer

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Upcoming Events – Oct 2016

October 4, 2016 in General

16th October: First Aid Back up in the Walk Cycle Run for Id-Dar tal-Providenza
22nd October: The EFRU’s Annual General Meeting
28th -31st October: Networking activities in Reggio Calabria, Italy
18th – 21st November: Participation in Rescue scenarios in PortugalUpcoming_Events

 

Erasmus+ KA2 Project – Fourth Transnational Meeting

September 30, 2016 in General

The Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) has chaired and facilitated an intensive ‘4th transnational meeting’ among six countries, participants in the Erasmus+ KA2 Strategic Partnerships project for which funds have been won by the Maltese volunteer team back in 2015. This two year project – Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams – led by the EFRU, will see its climax in May 2017 with a conference to be held in Malta. This program shall see the compilation of a rescue manual intended for the volunteer team members of EVOLSAR (The European Association Of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams). This will set a training standard upon which the Association members will base their training. This standard is particularly essential in facilitating joint rescue deployments, the main reason behind the formation of EVOLSAR.

The 4th Transnational Meeting was hosted by EVOLSAR’s UK lead team member, Serve On, and saw other volunteer rescue teams from Malta, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus working together, around a table, discussing training methods and techniques. All six teams were very satisfied with the progress of their hard work and together discussed ways and means with which to finalise the modules of the project’s intellectual output, the Rescue Manual.

The outcome of the various meetings and workshops incorporated into this Transnational Meeting, was very encouraging. The manual content is now at an advanced stage and works relating to editing, proofreading and typesetting have been planned to initiate shortly. The manual is intended to be published in May 2017 during the aforementioned conference.

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Milwaukee Tools Support EFRU

June 15, 2016 in General

topImageJuly2015_2The Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU)’s active involvement in EVOLSAR brought forward the need for more specialized equipment that can be used by its Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Team.Therefore, it has started to invest effort in obtaining equipment that is essential for the saving of lives should disasters strike.

Being a voluntary organisation, the EFRU could not fulfil this objective on its own accord and thus, sought the assistance of ProTrade Malta Ltd that showed interested in this project and reached out to support EFRU in attaining its targets for 2016. Thanks to its principal brand, Milwaukee, the heavy-duty power tools manufacturer, ProTrade Malta Ltd sponsored various Milwaukee Tools to the EFRU. The official presentation of the sponsored equipment was organised on Saturday the 11th of June 2016.

ProTrade Malta Ltd Directors, represented by Mr. Stephen Barbara, explained that Milwaukee’s Management and Marketing team believed in EFRU’s cause and immediately sought means with which to authorise the sponsor. He explained that ProTrade Malta Ltd is glad to kick off such a relationship in this manner and added that his company will be working closely with the Unit in the coming months to guide the rescuers better in the correct usage and potential of the sponsored tools. The EFRU Director, on behalf of all the committee and volunteers, thanked ProTrade Malta Ltd Directors and augured that this occasion will be the first of many more where ProTrade Malta Ltd and Milwaukee will be on the forefront to assist the volunteer Unit in reaching its objectives.

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Upcoming Events June 2016

June 13, 2016 in General

  1. 28th June 2016: Isle of MTV – First Aid & Rescue Back up during this mass public event
  2. 8th -10th July: ERASMUS+ KA2 Project: Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams Project – Transnational Meeting 3 to be held in Malta
  3. 17th July 2016: MUHC’s Race with the Dragons – First Aid back up support
  4. During Summer 2016: Various Fire Truck demos for Summer School students
  5. September 2016: Attendance to Emergency Medical Services EXPO UK
  6. September 2016: ERASMUS+ KA2 Project: Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams Project – Transnational Meeting 4 to be held in Malta