Beyond the edge… and back in one piece!

March 29, 2014 in U.S.A.R.

The Maltese Islands are graced with majestic cliffs, mostly to the West/Northwest of the country. Especially in Winter and Spring, many families are attracted by the imposing views that these cliffs afford. Then, there is the adrenalin rush when looking down at the landscape below, standing right at the edge. Careful however, as there is a valid reason for all the rocks and boulders beneath the cliff – they were once part of the cliff face, until weathering and gravity conspired to bring them crashing down. Unfortunately, there have been cases of persons who ventured too close to the edge – and that means the start of a delicate and complex rescue operation to get the person back up safely and without furthering any injuries.

As one may imagine, the rescue operation has to proceed smoothly, both for the sake of the injured person who needs urgent medical help, as well as for the safety of all involved in the operation. For this reason, the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) simulated the aforementioned scenario, in order to give its members the opportunity to learn and practise the techniques involved in such a case. You might be wondering what is the EFRU? The EFRU is a voluntary NGO whose main role is to assist the Civil Protection Department (CPD) during major emergencies or events where the CPD requires additional backup to its regular workforce. Furthermore, the EFRU has signed an agreement with a similar organisation – Edelweiss – in Italy, such that both organisations cooperate and learn from each other and may be mobilised to help each other as necessary. This organisation was in fact invited to participate in this rescue simulation.

The exercise was held on Saturday the 1st of March, at L-Ahrax in Mellieha. The weather was not looking too good at first, but that was not going to affect the exercise, because one never knows what the conditions will be when a real accident happens. Three ‘casualties’ were hidden among the rocks at the bottom of the cliff while three teams of rescuers were preparing to start the rescue operation. The tasks involved searching for the casualties, administering first aid and putting them in a stretcher. Meanwhile, an aerial runway was set up. In simple terms, this is a system that includes a tensioned rope, over which the casualty (inside a stretcher) is pulled up together with a rescuer, while the casualty is kept in a horizontal position. The overall focus of the exercise was mainly to practice communication and teamwork, especially with our foreign colleagues. The outcome of this simulation was a success and preparations have already started for the next ‘major’ exercise which will be held in Italy.


Joe Bonnici
EFRU Rescuer

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