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