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Exercise in Hornstein, Austria puts SAM.I. CATs in the field

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From 21 to 24 April, teams from the eight Samaritan organisations participating in the flood project came together in Hornstein, Burgenland, Austria for a field exercise hosted by project partner Samaritan Austria.

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Team leaders planning the base of operations.

After a first test in a simulation or “table top” exercise in Bolzano earlier this year, the exercise in Austria was the first practical test for the cross-border support capacities the SAM.I. members had developed within the project Cross-Border Samaritan Flood Preparedness. Over the last two years, the Samaritans created a joint process chain and defined SAM.I. Cross-Border Assistance Teams (CATs) to support each other in case of flood disaster.

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Setting up the base.

The SAM.I. CATs offer a variety of capacities, all of which are essential in flood disaster relief but also rely on other teams for support. The abilities tested in the exercise ranged from high capacity pumping (ANPAS) over water purification (ASB) to search and rescue (ASBÖ), medical services (ASSR, ASCR, USB), technical support and energy supply (SFOP, USB) and supply services for food and even a field laundry (WK).

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A person injured in the flood receives help from Samaritan medics.

The Austrian Exercise Command had developed a number of scenarios to challenge the capacities of every team. After the base of operations had been established, new situations emerged non-stop over the complete duration of the exercise, including through the night – just like in a real disaster.

 

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WK’s field kitchen serving meals to the local populace.

Most scenarios required the teams to work together and complement each other to find solutions. For example, the technical support teams provided lighting to search operations and evacuations or conducted pumping operations when approaching floods threatened the site of the water purification set-up.

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Citizens receive drinking water from the ASB water purification team.

After the exercise, the project will be concluded by an evaluation meeting and a final conference, where follow-up possibilities to establish the SAM.I. CATs as a permanent mutual assistance mechanism within SAM.I. will be discussed.
 

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The teams at the end of the exercise (group picture by Alois Pommer)

Flood project conducts table top exercise in Bolzano

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ttx_01From 25-26 February, the project Cross-Border Samaritan Flood Preparedness conducted the first of its two concluding exercises. After two years of developing procedures for joint Samaritan flood relief, the working results were put to the test.

The cross-border flood relief project was borne out of the devastating floods that affected multiple countries in Central and Eastern Europe in the period shortly before the project began in 2013.Since then, the partners from ANPAS (Italy), ASB (Germany), ASBÖ (Austria), ASCR (Czech Republic), ASSR (Slovakia), SFOP (Poland), USB (Hungary) and WK (Italy) have continuously worked on setting basic joint standards in alarming and information sharing to enable cross-border support in emergencies. At their previous meeting in Krakow, the project group had finalised the process chain for joint deployments.ttx_02

The exercise which the SAM.I. partners had to complete was a fictional but realistic scenario, which, in preparation for the second exercise, was set in Austria: The inflow streams of the Danube river had breached their banks, flooding populated areas in rural Lower Austria. The teams worked in the headquarters of White Cross, who hosted the event. As the host within the scenario, ASB Austria played the role of the mission coordination.

ttx_03According to their actual capacities as defined and built-up in the project, the Samaritans planned their work just like in a real emergency. For most tasks occurring within the scenario, the international partners had no choice but to cooperate and support each other to fulfil their assignments. Even though the table top exercise followed a linear order instead of several events happening at the same time, the schedule was tightly packed to challenge the involved organisations.

While the Samaritans did in the end successfully work through all given tasks, the table top exercise did of course also reveal room for improvement and open questions of the defined procedures. These optimisations will be taken into account for the upcoming field exercise in April, which will once gain test the Samaritans’ cooperation procedures. The exercise will take place in Austria and, compared to the table top exercise, will not only focus on planning and command structures, but test the practical capacities as well.

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ttx_messeDuring their stay in Bolzano, the Samaritans’ teams also had the opportunity to learn about the South Tyrolean civil protection system at the Civil Protect trade fair 2016, which coincided with the end of the exercise.

They also visited the White Cross’s booth, where capacities and innovations in disaster relief, rescue and first aid were presented. For instance, they could take a look inside the new field laundry container, which adds this important ability to the White Cross’s civil protection capacities. In the area of first aid, the usage of virtual reality as a learning medium was demonstrated.

Two other Samaritan projects, ADAPT and INDRIX,were also presented to the trade visitors at the fair.

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Project finalises process chain in Krakow

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At their meeting in Krakow, which took place from 20-23 September 2015, the project group learned about the involvement of volunteers in flood relief in Poland and finalised the process chain for cross-border Samaritan support.

Maciej Gofron (SFOP) introduces the speakers from the fire brigade. (Photo: SFOP/Ewa Klocek)

Maciej Gofron (SFOP) introduces the speakers from the fire brigade. (Photo: SFOP/Ewa Klocek)

On the first working day, the project partners were joined by several representatives of the local civil protection system. Mr. Andrzej Mroz, Commander of the State Fire Service in Krakow, Mr. Boguslaw Kogut, the Commandant of the State Fire Service’s School, and Mr. Marek Rut, Director of the Provincial Center for Crisis Management. They informed the international Samaritans about the structure of the Polish rescue and civil protection system.

The speakers also talked about the role that volunteers, particularly voluntary firefighters, played in the relief operations for recent flood disasters. In some situations, volunteers outnumbered professional personnel by as much as 2:1 and thus made substantial and crucial contributions. Particularly in remote areas of Poland, volunteers are often the first people on the scene of a disaster and enjoy a high level of trust among the general populace.

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The group works on the table top exercise scenario. (Photo: SFOP/Ewa Klocek)

On the following day, the group took up where they left off at the previous meeting in Prague and finalised the process chain for cross-border support in case of flood disasters. They also started to prepare the scenario for the planned exercises to put the process chain to a test. There will be two exercises to conclude the project. A table top exercise will be held in February 2016 in Bolzano, hosted by the White Cross. A field exercise to put the project results into practice will be held in late April. The host of the field exercise will be ASB Austria.

 

 

Meeting in Prague – Work on process chain continues

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From 9th to 11th February, the eight Samaritan organisations involved in the project Cross-Border Samaritan Flood Preparedness met in Prague, Czech Republic to continue the work on their process chain and alert mechanism.

ASCR employees explain their technical facilities and equipment to the project group.

Czech SAM.I. member ASCR hosted the meeting and used the opportunity to give the Samaritan partners a tour of the facilities and equipment they use in their daily work and which could also be used for flood response.

Several stakeholders of the Czech system of civil protection were present to contribute their expertise to the discussions. Col. Ing. Pavel Nepovim and Ing. Jan Pecl from the Czech General Directorate of the Fire Brigade as well as MD Martin Houdek, Director of Emergency Services Central Boehmia helped to familarise the group with the Czech system of civil protection in general and flood relief in particular.

Col Pavel Nepovim from the Czech Directorate General of Fire Brigades introduces the project group to the local system of civil protection.

Considering the fact that most European Samaritan organisations rely on volunteers for their disaster relief, their integration in any possible cross-border assistance scenarios was of particular interest to the project group. The emergency medical system as well as civil protection mechanisms of the Czech Republic are primarily carried by employed paramedics and experts, which is why the issue of integration possibilities in cross-border deployments is vital.

Members of the project group during their visit to areas previously affected by heavy floods.

Part of the meetings were held on a boat on the Vltava river. This was done to give the group a first-hand impression of the flood risks in the region of Central Bohemia, as the boat passed areas along the river that were hit by heavy floods in recent years, including landmarks that the group had seen before in a flooded state in a presentation on the most recent disasters. The tour also allowed the partners to see the countermeasures that have been put in place since then.

Working on the process chain.

The group then went on to pick up where they left off at the last meeting in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia. They continued work on the process chain, with particular attention to the alarming and communication procedure. The process chain workshop was once again led by Jürgen Schreiber from ASB Bremen.

Having worked out the complete basic steps of the process chain, the project partners will use the time until the next working meeting to suggest a few final changes. At the upcoming meeting hosted by SFOP in Poland, the final decisions on the processes will be taken.

 

Partners start work on process chain in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia

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On September 17-21 2014, representatives from 8 SAM.I. members met in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, for project meetings of the two civil protection projects Cross-Border Samaritan Flood Preparedness and Social Affairs Management in the Emergency Temporary Shelter (SAMETS). They were hosted by the Slovakian Samaritan Organisation ASSR, which is not only a partner in the flood project but also in SAMETS.

Integration with the Slovakian Rescue Forum

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Round table with representatives of the project and a delegation from Slovakian Ministry of Interior (on the right), headed by Miroslav Jancek (third from right).

Coinciding with the working meeting, the Slovakian Rescue Forum was held in Banská Bystrica, giving participants from both projects to get a close-up view of the Slovakian System of civil protection and the current most relevant issues for the experienced Slovakian firefighters, aid- and rescue workers who were giving and attending talks at the conference. The forum also presented an opportunity to present the projects to civil protection officials from the Slovakian Ministry of Interior and discuss the closer integration of volunteering organisations, such as ASSR, into the Slovakian system of civil protection.

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Miroslav Jancek of the Slovakian Ministry of Interior presenting the integration of volunteer organisations into the national system of civil protection.

Civil Protection Engineer Miroslav Jancek, Head of the Civil Protection Unit in the Interior ministry, personally introduced the international Samaritans to the current efforts to integrate volunteering in more and more aspects of disaster relief in Slovakia. Mr. Alexander Nejedlý, President of the Slovakian fire fighters, also visited the working sessions of the Samaritans to express his support of further integration of ASSR into the national civil protection mechanisms.

 

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The project groups together with ASSR volunteers and Alexander Nejedlý, President of the Slovakian fire and rescue services (5th from right) in front of ASSR’s stand at the rescue forum. Photo: ASSR

Flood project starts to define process chain

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The process chain workshop

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The process chain workshop

Besides the unique opportunity to learn about the Slovakian system of civil protection, the flood project also started the work on a process chain for Samaritan neighbour support. The workshop on the process chain was led by Mr. Jürgen Schreiber from ASB Bremen, who had previously contributed to the project’s working meeting in Wiesbaden in July of this year. The work on the process chain allowed the group to define the next steps for their meeting in Prague in February next year. The partners of the flood project also worked on a survey design to assess each other’s existing cross-border capabilities and potential for improving them.

SAMETS: Focus on elderly people and people with physical impairments

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The organisational group of the SAMETS workshops

The SAMETS project discussed the psychosocial challenges that the presence of elderly people or people with various physical impairments poses for the management of an emergency temporary shelter. After introductory presentations on psychosocial care in Slovakian civil protection and on what traumatisation in disasters means for the elderly in particular, the partners split into two workshops, which focused on the specific psychosocial needs of the elderly and on the structural and organisational aspects of temporary shelter management adjusted to these needs, respectively.

Benefiting from synergies

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SAMETS workshops – Group on particularities of psychosocial care for elderly people

While the two projects have different main focuses, the joint schedule allowed for the partners to benefit from synergies for specific aspects of each other’s projects. Besides the larger pool of civil protection expertise, another connection point between the two projects is disaster relief for people with physical impairments. Cross-Border Samaritan Flood Preparedness has a special focus on improving flood relief for people with physical impairments of all kinds, meaning that the project explores the needs of this part of the SAMETS target group before they arrive in temporary shelters.

The next meetings are planned for the beginning of next year. Cross-Border Samaritan Flood Preparedness will finalise their process chain in Prague, while the next SAMETS meeting in Vienna will have a special focus on cultural diversity in emergency temporary shelters.

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The project groups in the central square of Banská Bystrica.

 

Second project meeting in Wiesbaden

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From July 4 to 6, representatives of 7 SAM.I. members and a number of experts met in Wiesbaden, Germany for working meetings of the projects Cross Border Samaritan Flood Preparedness and SAMETS.

Felix Fellmer from ASB Germany presenting his case study about the "F.A.S.T." emergency team and the flood in Bosnia

Felix Fellmer from ASB Germany presenting his case study about the “F.A.S.T.” emergency team and the flood in Bosnia

The project partners from ANPAS (Italy), ASB (Germany), ASBÖ (Austria), ASCR (Czech Republic), ASSR (Slovakia), SFOP (Poland) and WK (South Tyrol) met for their second project meeting of the project Cross Border Samaritan Flood Preparedness. The meeting was hosted by the educational centre of ASB Wiesbaden.

The project aims to enable cross-border aid among the Samaritan organisations in case of flood disasters. Among the discussed topics were coordination with public authorities in civil protection in general and particularly in cross-border deployments, as well as the legal and technical difficulties in deploying aid equipment across borders.

ANPAS, ASB, ASBÖ, ASSR and WK are also partners of the SAMETS project, which is concerned with social affairs management in emergency temporary shelters.

The working sessions for both projects were distributed within the same 3 day time frame to enable the two groups to benefit from each other’s expertise and to enable a broader knowledge base beyond just one of the focuses of the projects for everyone.

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Rike Richwin of the German Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) informs the participants about psychosocial care in German civil protection

In addition to the European Samaritans, several experts shared their knowledge with the project partners. The meeting began with a detailed introduction to the civil protection system in Germany and its federal particularities by Jürgen Schreiber, who is a long-time leader of civil protection units and head of ASB Bremen’s training centre for medical civil protection. An overview of the flood activities of ASB in 2013 was presented by Harald Schottner, head of the department for aid organisation and civil protection at the ASB federal office.

In addition, case studies from various departments and branches of ASB Germany were presented. Felix Fellmer, technical and medical leader of the F.A.S.T. emergency aid teams, informed about their flood relief activities in Bosnia and Florian Zeiger, responsible for disaster relief at ASB Mittelthüringen, gave an overview of flood relief in Thuringia in 2013.

Another topic was the in-depth discussion of the special needs of children in case of disaster. It began with an overview of psychosocial care in the German system of civil protection that was given by Rike Richwin of the German Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance. Building upon this, there were additional presentations and workshops, which were conducted by Tita Kern and Simon Finkeldei from AETAS Kinderstiftung and Frederik Schütte from antwortING.

The projects also defined their next steps. The flood project initiated a working group that will meet before the next project meeting and conduct a survey on available cross-border capacities for the project partners. The survey aims to evaluate how coordination and support among SAM.I. partners can be improved. Building on existing services of the partners, gaps in capacities and materials shall be closed.

The SAMETS partners will prepare for the focus point of their next meeting, which will be elderly and disabled people in the emergency temporary shelter.

More pictures from the meeting are available in our media gallery.

Project partners meet Hungarian decision-makers in Budapest

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On February 10-12  the project partners held their first project meeting in Budapest and met with Hungarian decision makers. The meeting was hosted by the Hungarian Samaritans of Országos Szamaritánus Társaság Szövetsége (USB).

MP Dr. Ágnes Vadai, USB chairman Sándor Agócs and SAM.I. Secretary General Christian Reuter with USB volunteersGuests included Dr. Ágnes Vadai, member of parliament, part of the defence committee, member of OSCE and head of the Hungarian delegation to the NATO parliamentary assembly. In addition, two experts in civil protection from the ministry of the interior, Dr. Tamás Hábermayer and Zoltán Hozbor, spoke about disaster management in Hungary.

The occasion for the meeting was the first partner meeting of the joint flood project the SAM.I. members affected by the 2013 flood: ANPASASBASBÖASCRASSRSFOP, USB and WK. The project will be conducted over the next two years with financial support from Aktion Deutschland Hilft and ASB.

The project partners follow the presentation of Zoltán HozborThe flood disaster of 2013 is an example of one of the biggest aid efforts in the affected countries and demonstrates that the aid and care services of aid organisations face ever new increasing challenges due to cross-border effects of disasters. Hundreds of voluntary helpers committed their time and work during the disaster relief deployments of the SAM.I. member organisations.

“Learn from each other, define common standards and join resources”

Through partner meetings and the exchange of best practices over the two year duration of the project, learning from each other will be particularly put into focus.

In particular, this exchange covers which Samaritan organisations were and ere included in which aid measures in the partner countries during flood disasters and how the cooperation with public civil protection units works.

Over lunch, Dr. Ágnes Vadai, MP, SAM.I. Secretary General Christian Reuter, the SAM.I. presidium and project participants discussed the impact of more frequent natural disaster in times of demographic and social change. In particular, the special needs in case of emergency evacuations for some groups were considered, such as children, people with disabilities and elderly people in need of care.

Dr. Vadai stressed how important it is to put a special focus on the needs and the protection of women in emergency shelters, especially those of migrant or multicultural heritage.

Two representatives of the ministry of the interior also attended the meeting. Dr. Tamás Hábermayer from the national directorate general for disaster management and Zoltán Hozbor, head of the national disaster protection unit (LFR).Dr. Tamás Hábermayer from the Hungarian ministry of the interior during his presentation

Both gave the participants specific and practical insights into the civil protection structures of Hungary.

Special attention was paid to the sequence of operations and the coordination and inclusion of volunteers.

Besides aiming to improve communication with public bodies and decision makers in cases of flood disaster on a national or European scale, the project meeting resulted in plans for two joint training exercises in Slovakia and Austria. National and cross-border aid deployments for floods shall be optimised and joint approaches for new challenges be found. The exercises will be attended by helpers from the partner organisations, including volunteers from the already established FAST teams (First Assistance Samaritan Team).

USB volunteers with the SAM.I. presidium and additional project participantsIn addition, the partners aim to develop synergies with another SAM.I. EU project. At the beginning of this year, a joint project by ANPAS, ASB, ASBÖ, ASSR and WK has received a grant from the European Community Humanitarian Office (DG ECHO). This project will create a module that has long been planned: Samaritan Emergency Temporary Shelters – thus the project acronym SAMETS. This project cooperation will, among other things, enable partner organisations to give better aid to children, the elderly or people with disabilities who find themselves in emergency shelters. Also, there will be improvements in taking multicultural aspects into consideration.

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