Arctic Disaster Management Project – Finnish Red Cross

Janne Körkkö / Finnish Red Cross
Suomen Punaisen Ristin rinnepäivystäjien kouluttajakoulutus Pikku-Syötteellä.
Image: Janne Körkkö / Finnish Red Cross

The Arctic is experiencing increase in activities related to trade, shipping, resource extraction and growing Arctic tourism. With these developments the possible risks and vulnerabilities in the area are growing as well. In response to this, Red Cross develops capacities for major accidents in cold conditions.

The Arctic is a vast northern area, characterised by severe conditions and challenging geography. The spectrum of possible risks in the Arctic is wide, ranging from Arctic cruise ship accidents to oil-spills and natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides. Response to this kind of hazards requires cross-sectoral cooperation and international capacity development.

As a part of capacity development two-part The Arctic Disaster Management project was conducted with cooperation of all Arctic National Red Cross Societies from the United States, Canada, Iceland, Denmark (including Greenland and Faroe Islands), Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia during 2017-2019. The projects were part of the Finnish Border Guard’s Arctic Maritime Safety Cooperation project (SARC) for which the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland has provided funding. As a part of the first project, Finnish Red Cross compiled The Red Cross Arctic Disaster Management Study, which provided a comprehensive overview of the presence, services and response capacity of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in the Arctic.

The Arctic Study

The study focuses on the Red Cross emergency response capabilities, including human resources, equipment, logistics, databases and alerting systems, training and capacity building, cooperation and coordination and long-term programmes in the Arctic.

According to the study, Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has over 10 000 trained volunteers all around the Arctic area that have extensive know-how of the Arctic conditions and are significant assets to local authorities. Local branches are well prepared for the everyday incidents, but in case of a major accident, assistance would need to be mobilized from outside the area.

As an outcome the study gives 13 recommendations based on the findings. These recommendations relate to strengthening volunteer management in the Arctic including spontaneous volunteers, enhancing response capacities for major emergencies through winterization and harmonisation of existing units and pre-logistical planning, increasing cooperation with public authorities, external partners, stakeholders and indigenous communities as well as strengthening Red Cross advocacy and presence in the Arctic Council.

The study can be found below.

Arctic training module and future or Arctic disaster management

As a part of the second project an Arctic and Extreme Cold Preparedness Training Module and Arctic 2030 − Position paper on the future of the Arctic mass evacuation and medical emergencies were produced

The Arctic Training module was done with consultation from Arctic National Red Cross Societies, Oulu University, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Finnish Red Cross volunteers.

It provides useful information for visitors, Red Cross volunteers, delegates and staff how to prepare for Arctic and extreme cold operations. The module gives tips how to dress and stay safe in cold. It also gives tips how to improve functions as a team in extreme cold conditions.

The Arctic 2030 paper was conducted together with the Finnish Red Cross, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finnish Border Guard, Helsinki University Hospital, Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT Technical Research Centre, Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority – STUK, and Arctia Oy.

It explores future possibilities for Finnish stakeholders to response to large medical emergencies or mass evacuations situations in Arctic and cold conditions. It links existing capabilities to changes in the operation environment and addresses thematical areas like usage of data, automation, and other technologies for the next steps towards 2030. It also gives recommendations for stakeholders.

Both publications can be found below.

For more information on the project: Ilona Hatakka, disaster preparedness adviser, tel. +358 20 701 2024. E-mail: ilona.hatakka@redcross.fi