Mass Rescue Operations

IMRF Members were treated to a special webinar on 16 March on ‘Specialist SAR Operations: Dealing with Potential Contamination’.

The main speakers at the event were Teemu Niemelä (Lieutenant Senior Grade, Maritime Safety Unit of the Finnish Border Guard) and Iosif Vourvachis (Head of Development and EU projects at the Hellenic Rescue Team). 

They were joined by Caroline Jupe (Head of Fundraising and Projects) and Theresa Crossley (CEO) from the IMRF.

The webinar focused on the plans, procedures, best practices and technologies that can help SAR first responders during incidents that involve hazardous and noxious substances (HNS).

During the event, Teemu Niemelä showcased the ChemSAR Manual, a handbook released by the Finnish Border Guard in 2020, that details effective operational plans and standard operating procedures that first responders should have in place for these types of incidents.

Ship fires are a very challenging environment for first responders to work in and there was much discussion as to what would happen if hazardous substances were involved,he told the webinar.

The manual, which is available to all IMRF Members and can be read here. It contains important information for any SAR organisation looking to establish their own procedures, or operational plans for handling maritime HNS incidents.

Teemu noted, however, that the handbook has been designed to supplement, not replace, SAR organisations’ own operational procedures. “We weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel,he said

The ChemSAR project took place from 2016 to 2019 and included participation from Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania and Sweden. About €2.4 million of funding was involved in the project, which was co-financed by the European Union.  

In the second part of the webinar, Iosif Vourvachis delivered a presentation called ‘PathoCERT project: 'Helping First Responders to Detect Pathogens in the Water’. Iosif spoke about the SAR tools, techniques and guidelines that the PathoCERT project is developing to aid SAR first responders during waterborne pathogen contamination events.

The project, which got underway in September 2020, is being co-ordinated by the University of Cyprus and has about 15 new technologies under development to help first responders, both in the field and working from headquarters, improve their situational awareness, detect lethal pathogens more easily and improve co-ordination efforts during pathogen contamination events.

PathoCERT is set to undertake a case study of several of its technologies in Thessaliniki, Greece, in Spring 2023.

Theresa Crossley described the PathoCERT project asa really good illustration of how technology is being used to improve search and rescue operations going forward”.

IMRF members can view and download a recording of the webinar here.