2016 Insight

May 6, 2017 in General

2016 was another year that brought with it a lot of experiences, challenges and a milestone, in its own right, for the EFRU. Here are just a few that certainly left a mark on EFRU;

The year started with some work with “all hands on deck” for all the volunteers as the EFRU hosted a five-day training programme for some 42 rescue volunteers coming from various volunteer rescue teams from various European countries which included the UK, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Hungary. The event, held in February 2016, saw these volunteers handle various rescue simulations in the Maltese Islands where the EFRU simulated various rescue scenarios including urban search and rescue (USAR), Rope Rescue, Cliff Rescue and a mine collapse.

In May, the EFRU sent a team to Italy for the RESCUE 2016 simulation. The EFRU was again pivotal in the various rescue simulations involving train accidents and rescue from a “Spaceframe” structure. During this event, the Hungarian team Central Buda Civil Protection Association (OPVE) was officially accepted as the lead team for Hungary in EVOLSAR, the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams.

In June, I had the privilege to present EVOLSAR to a Greek emergency services audience, during ENCELADUS 2016, a conference held in Athens. During this event potential future members of EVOLSAR had the opportunity to discuss the benefits of joining our European association. Other teams coming from outside the EU also showed their interest and a Russian team met during this activity will be visiting Malta soon for an exchange training. This outcome resulted after a networking meeting organised specifically in Italy in September where a tripartite discussion of cooperation was initiated among Edelweiss, the Russian team and EFRU.

June was also celebration time for EFRU as it marked the 10th year of operation for the Unit.

With August, came the Italian earthquakes. The EFRU, through its EVOLSAR member team in Italy, was on the alert within the first hour after the alert. The team had everything ready and planned for a team of eight rescuers, with equipment, to travel by sea on the same evening of the catastrophic event. However, it was made clear that the response to the emergency was already being handled by local entities and that no foreign assistance was needed. In fact, many Italian volunteer teams had to be sent back or were asked to stand by in the vicinity so as not to clog the roads unnecessarily and allow operations to proceed. For this reason, and since we are all volunteers, we have to carry out our due diligence even when responding to such events as it would have been a waste of funds and resources if the team had gone up to Italy and would have been unable to assist in actual SAR.

In November, the EFRU was again part of the annual Portuguese SAR DAY event. In this simulation, the EFRU team was entrusted by the Portuguese with the running of the OSOCC throughout the event. This, whilst also having rescue volunteers taking part in the simulations as well. During this event, another two teams, the Bombeiros Voluntarios de Peniche (BvP) of Portugal and the Unidad Canina Rescate y Salvamento (UCRS Madrid) of Spain became part of EVOLSAR. The BvP is the second team from Portugal within EVOLSAR and therefore, it joined as an affiliate team, while UCRS Madrid is the first Spanish team and thus, it joined as a lead team for Spain.

This year is foreseen to be another challenging one. Already, various new experiences have been reaped by our volunteers …..truly our motto may well be – Never a Dull Moment!

Ivan Barabara
EFRU Director