Arctic Disaster Management Project – Finnish Red Cross

Veli-Matti Ahtiainen / Finnish Red Cross
Image: Veli-Matti Ahtiainen / Finnish Red Cross

The Red Cross Arctic Disaster Management project develops capacities for evacuations in major accidents in cold conditions and maps out the existing capabilities and capacities of the Red Cross for Arctic response.

The Arctic Disaster Management project is conducted as a 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.  The first part of the project has been conducted during September 2017 – August 2018. The project continues in September 2018 – August 2019.
 
As a part of the project, Finnish Red Cross has compiled The Red Cross Arctic Disaster Management Study, which is the first attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of the presence, services and response capacity of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in the Arctic.
 
National Red Cross Societies from the United States (Alaska), Canada, Iceland, Denmark (including Greenland and Faroe Islands), Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia provided information for the study. 
 
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.
 
With the increasing activities related to trade, shipping, resource extraction and growing Arctic tourism, the possible risks and vulnerabilities in the area are growing as well.
 

Mapping out strengths and gaps of the Red Cross in the Arctic 

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.
 
The arrangements and pre-planning for these types of events however doesn’t seem to be adequate. Red Cross National Societies in the Arctic have adapted to the challenging conditions by developing specific techniques and equipment for the Arctic context – from airdroppable survival kits to Arctic First Aid.
 
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 Red Cross Arctic Disaster Management Study is published in August 2018.
 
For more information on the project: Ilona Hatakka, disaster preparedness adviser, tel. +358 20 701 2024. E-mail: ilona.hatakka@redcross.fi