The Volunteer Rescuer: A Unified Approach

September 29, 2017 in General

We recall sharing with our readers the news about different funds which the EFRU was trying to secure or had secured altogether in order to improve both training and equipment resources. We also recall sharing the news on the birth of the EVOLSAR association which brought us closer with our volunteering brothers and sisters across European borders and beyond. These news made our headlines several months ago and now, more than a year on, we are back with updates!

The most demanding project which the EFRU has ever embarked on is, of course, the multi-national endeavour (Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams, an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships Project) that saw teams from different countries coming together in common search-and-rescue training. The aim was to identify and share best practices in the field of rescue as well as to synchronise methods, increase preparedness for large-scale disasters and facilitate interoperability among different European teams. Moreover, it served as a launch-pad for the Rescue Techniques for Emergency Response – An Introductory Manual for European Volunteer Rescuers. This manual is the first of its kind and was published with the intention of providing a set of rescue-related guidelines to the volunteers of EVOLSAR, which by now has evolved into a network of no less than 12 teams from 9 different countries.

Five transnational meetings propelled the project forward between 2015 and 2017 in Portugal, Malta, Italy, the United Kingdom and Greece. Intermittently, practice sessions were held such as a five-day emergency simulation and, later into the project, a training exercise which set the scene for final events of May 2017. Twenty-four teamsThe following day, activities culminated with the first international conference for Volunteer Rescue Teams, which brought this successful two-year project to a rewarding end.

It is worth mentioning that during these final activities, the EFRU also collaborated with the Gzira Local Council on a separate, but related, event largely intended for the public’s engagement. For one afternoon, Ġnien il-Kunsill tal-Ewropa of Gzira was transformed into a large display area which featured information pods, first-aid and fire-fighting demonstrations and interactive sessions, all designed to inform the public about EFRU, EVOLSAR and the field of rescue. This was only made possible thanks to the funding obtained from the Small Initiatives Support Scheme as managed by the Malta Council for the Volunteer Sector, the support of the Gzira Local council, the CPD and Playmobil Malta which supported the children’s educational area.

One needs not really be directly involved in all of this in order to be able to conclude that all of the work mentioned above left the members of the Unit entirely taken-up with a tonne of tasks. The organisation alone was a challenge the EFRU had never faced before, not to mention the tasks of seeing each part of these events through to the end successfully and making sure that our more than 120 foreign guests were well cared for. As it always does, however, the teamwork of our dedicated volunteers worked miracles and we all look back to those few days with amazement and pride.  

Three months later, our pride was yet again refuelled with a visit by the Hon. Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, Dr Michael Farrugia, to the EFRU headquarters in Shipwright Wharf, Marsa. Dr Farrugia watched as a typical training session unfolded before him and bore witness to the Unit’s training and preparedness in assisting the Civil Protection when in need. He was also presented with a copy of the manual which had been launched in May. Dr Farrugia also listened to some of the concerns that the Unit is currently facing, particularly those concerning an adequate premises to house both our training needs and much-valued equipment.

All in all, this year has been one for reaching new heights for the entire EFRU community – both locally and abroad – and all we can say with certainty is that it is not over yet! Although we tend to be humble in counting our achievements, we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we do not look back on the past months with pride and joy. We have made it so far only because we believe in the cause of all this and, most of all, in each other. With all the demands that such a project has made for us, we can only look forward for more initiatives like it. As the end of the year looms closer, lots of plans are still in the pipeline for us – some to be executed in a few weeks’ time, others to be studied further until such time comes for us to take that little step further…

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Keith Borg – Deputy Director