ICCSS led first European COVID-19 Field Exercise on civil protection against chem-bio threats

Over 500 participants took part in the Full Scale Field Exercise (FX) conducted on 27-29 September 2021 in Lviv, Ukraine. This was a first Field Exercise on civil protection within European Union since outbreak of COVID-19. The national rescue and fire service teams from Latvia, Moldova, Poland, coordinated by European Union Civil Protection Team (UCP Team), have responded to Ukraine who requested and received assistance within Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM). They jointly trained with Ukraine teams to mitigate major chemical, biological and natural disasters.

The Exercise was a core event of the EU-CHEM-REACT 2 project, funded by the European Union. The project addressed a need to improve prevention, preparedness and response to chemical and natural disasters simultaneously affecting participating countries, through a series of exercises, to test enhance national capacities, use of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), and trans-border cooperation and international. An international multi-stakeholder consortium representing governments, industry, civil society, including voluntary fire services, and academia, from  Belarus, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine, and international agencies, including UN OCHA, WHO and OPCW, conducted in 2019 -2021 a series of exercises, in a block approach: Table Top  Exercise /TTX/ in 2019 in Belarus, Command Post Exercise (CPX) in 2020 in Moldova.

The project deliverables  include improving national, cross-sectoral and trans-government policies for emergency response mechanisms, testing and promoting the UCPM, EU tools and international response capacities. We improved speed of response in civil protection assistance interventions. An effective conduct of the project exercises, has improved  multi-stakeholder national and international cooperation in civil protection against CBRN and natural disasters.

EU-CHEM-REACT 2 project demonstrated a high level of preparedness of Moldova and Ukraine to cooperate with the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. Senior Moldova and Ukraine participants confirmed the importance of the  EU-CHEM-REACT 2 project and the conducted exercises in their alignment with UCPM and EU tools in civil protection. Ukraine proposed the development of a draft road map for its membership in UCPM.

An important element of the EU-CHEM-REACT project was the promotion of volunteer fire service within UCPM. The Polish volunteer fire service units from Ćminsk, Pabianice and Zielonka, who took an  active part in the Exercise, confirmed high level of preparedness and similar to EU civil protection modules.

Mr. Felix Bloch from the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), stressed the Exercise effectively tested EU Civil Protection Mechanism. He further noted the importance of the Exercise to develop UCPM Knowledge network.

Prof. Miroslav Koval, rector University of Life Safety in Lviv, host of the Exercise and core partner within the EU-CHEM-REACT 2 Consortium, offered training and exercise capabilities to prepare European Staff for the UCPM.

Amb. Krzysztof Paturej, head of the EU-CHEM-REACT 2 Consortium, has expressed, during the Exercise closing ceremony, words of thanks and appreciation for all the participants, with a special gratitude for training teams from Latvia, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine. He confirmed readiness to use the great network of contacts, and gathered personal and technical capacities within EU-CHEM-REACT process, as well as high international position of ICCSS, to provide further support for the countries of Easter Europe to enhance their civil protection preparedness and alignment with UCPM. The EU-CHEM-REACT process will be continued with an new EURO-MED-REACT project in 2022-2023, with participation of countries from EU, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, with a major file exercise in Moldova in 2023.