Red Cross: Need for improvement in Arctic disaster preparedness

Sini Hangaslammi / Finnish Red Cross
Image: Sini Hangaslammi / Finnish Red Cross

The Finnish Red Cross has compiled a study on risk and disaster preparedness in the Arctic.

The Red Cross Movement has 10,000 trained volunteers in the Arctic with extensive know-how and knowledge about the Arctic conditions. They support the authorities in several different tasks. 

‘Local Red Cross branches are generally well prepared for smaller incidents and emergencies. In the event of a major disaster, however, material support and human resources would have to be mobilised from outside the Arctic area. According to the study, this has not been sufficiently prepared for,’ says one of the authors of the study, Disaster Preparedness Adviser Ilona Hatakka from the Finnish Red Cross.

International cooperation

The National Red Cross Societies in the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia have adapted to the demanding Arctic conditions in various ways and developed special equipment and techniques. The material preparedness of the Red Cross in the area varies, however, and information on existing capacities is divided between various National Societies. 

‘The study revealed, for example, that the Greenlandic Red Cross has developed an Arctic First Aid programme and the Svalbard branch of the Norwegian Red Cross has developed an Arctic Survival Emergency Kit that can be airdropped. By sharing the best practices and cooperating more closely, we could improve the preparedness of the whole area,’ says Hatakka.

Arctic conditions are challenging, and the growing interest towards the area increases the risks further. The study examines the human resources, equipment, logistics, databases and alerting systems, training as well as capacity building and long-term programmes of the Red Cross in the Arctic. Based on the findings, the study gives recommendations on developing the capacities in the future.

The Study has been compiled by the Finnish Red Cross as a part of the Finnish Border Guard’s Arctic Maritime Safety Cooperation project (SARC). The study has been conducted in cooperation with the National Red Cross Societies of Alaska (American Red Cross), Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland and Russia.

The Red Cross Arctic Disaster Management Study compiled by the Finnish Red Cross is published both online and as a printed publication.