The Red Cross develops regional preparedness and cooperation

Mikael Lehtinen / Finnish Red Cross
Volunteers rescued from the sea arrive at the Red Cross evacuation centre.
Image: Mikael Lehtinen / Finnish Red Cross

Companies, governments and tourists are showing an increasing interest in the Arctic region. This increases the likelihood of accidents requiring the preparedness and readiness skills of the Red Cross.

The Finnish Red Cross participated in the Polaris 2019 exercise organised by the Finnish Border Guard on 2 April. The exercise involved the FRC districts of Varsinais-Suomi, Turunmaa and Satakunta practicing evacuation centre operations.
 
The goal of the exercise was to improve cooperation between the Red Cross and authorities in the Arctic and the Baltic Sea area.
 
At the same time, a Red Cross mapping exercise was held to train providing and receiving help between the Red Cross districts in the Arctic region. 
 
The exercises focusing on evacuating a passenger ferry showed that cooperation still needs development and information still needs to be distributed more efficiently, especially in international operations. 
 
Shared operating models, good equipment and trained volunteers make for better preparedness and readiness.
 
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Volunteers are being evacuated into a helicopter from Arctia Oy’s Fennica multipurpose icebreaker. (Photo: Finnish Border Guard)
 

Troubled by long distances and limited resources

Long distances, challenging travel connections, especially to Arctic islands and sparsely populated areas, a limited communications infrastructure and limited resources of the authorities make rescue and relief action difficult in the area. 
 
The Arctic area may be a very challenging operational environment, but even areas closer to us include some busy sea routes, where operations may be very time-consuming and difficult depending on the conditions. 
 
For example, the evacuation of one third of the 1,300 passengers on the passenger vessel Viking Sky, which suffered an engine failure off the coast of Norway last March, took hours. 
 
In addition to evacuating passengers, an oil spill in winter time, for example, requires seamless cooperation between authorities, companies and the volunteer sector.
 

The Finnish Red Cross develops regional preparedness

In addition to the Arctic viewpoint, the Finnish Red Cross develops preparedness in the BALTPREP and OIL SPILL projects focusing on the Baltic. 
 
The purpose of these projects is to improve preparedness and readiness and ease cooperation between the various operators in Finland and neighbouring countries. 
 
This is done by streamlining cooperation between the authorities and organisations through shared training sessions and exercises. The projects also involve the sharing of good practices between the countries involved. 
 
Further information on cross-border and cross-sector cooperation can be found on the websites for the Arctic Disaster Management Project, BALTPREP and OIL SPILL projects.