The Malta Independent 11 December 2016, Sunday

Volunteer rescue groups convene in Malta to simulate emergency exercises

Saturday, 6 February 2016, 11:57 Last update: about 11 months ago

The Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) is a Maltese non-governmental and non-profit rescue organization run entirely by volunteers.  The Unit was founded in June 2006.

The EFRU was primarily set up to provide emergency rescue services as a backup to the local authorities in case of national catastrophes such as earthquakes, major disasters,  floods, and similar occurrences. It focuses on a number of different techniques such as  Basic and Advanced Rescue, Cliff Rescue, High Angle Rescue, Fire-Fighting, USAR and First Aid. The EFRU also assists other entities during their fundraising activities through the 'Community Assistance Program'. This has been created for the benefit of charitable and youth organizations providing training and assistance as required.

Since 2010, the EFRU's Executive Committee has been working on the idea of setting up a European Network of Volunteer Rescue Teams.  This objective was set in motion in 2011 after the EFRU twinned up with the Italian team Edelweiss. In May 2014, the EFRU, together with another three teams from Portugal, Greece and Cyprus and the Italian Edelweiss, set up EVOLSAR, the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams.

The scope of this association is to standardise operations and training, thus enhancing interoperability between the member teams to facilitate joint deployments.   This set up has also proved to minimise drastically the bureaucratic procedures of deployment, whereas member teams can deploy to assist other member teams in catastrophe stricken areas without waiting for the normally long procedure of assistance request to be issued.  This will improve response time and thus enhance the possibility to save lives. It will also serve as a shortcut for humanitarian aid to reach affected areas quicker.

EVOLSAR, through its Greek Team EPOMEA, has already deployed to Serbia in 2014 to assist in the floods that crippled the country with teams form UK and Portugal on standby.  In 2015, EVOLSAR was again on standby to assist Serve On, EVOLSAR's most recent UK member in the floods that crippled York and the northern British territory.

During 2015, the EFRU secured EU funding through the ERASMUS+  KA2 Strategic Partnerships funding programme.  The project, entitled "Synergising European Volunteer Rescue Teams - A Rescue Operations Manual" will see the five founding members of EVOLSAR: Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) - Malta, Edelweiss - Italy, Elite Team Special Missions of Greece (EPOMEA) - Greece, Escola Portugese de Salvamento (EPS) - Portugal, Cyprus Civil Protection Volunteer Corps (CCPVC) - Cyprus and Serve On - UK - work on a Training Manual for the basic elements of the principal rescue techniques to provide a standard introduction in rescue training to all volunteers venturing into this challenging and rewarding activity. 

The purpose of the manual is not to reinvent the wheel but to have one book compiling tried and tested principles of rescue with focus on rationale behind such principles.

One of the events through this funding program is a five day training activity organised by the EFRU here in Malta.  This event will see the six (6) EVOLSAR member teams together with others from Hungary and a second team from Italy taking part in various training simulations.  Each scenario will be followed by a thorough evaluation of the aftermath such that training points will be brought up, discussed and considered for the manual. 

Furthermore, the programme will see various other meetings taking part in the countries of participating organisations leading to a final conference to be set here in Malta during the second quarter of 2017.  The compiled training manual shall be launched and disseminated to the participants during this conference.

Anyone wishing to be part of EFRU's dynamic team can visit our website www.efru.org for further details on how to join.  


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