U-LEAD with Europe helps create volunteer fire brigades in Dnipropetrovsk region

Every day journalists receive reports on fires and emergencies in Dnipropetrovsk region. Not all of these events are disclosed to the public. As a rule, the newspapers and the websites publish news which caused human victims. Unfortunately, there are a lot of them.

And no matter how professional and brave our Ukrainian rescuers are, today the situation with fires in our region and in the country is quite difficult.

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It is worth having a guard

“Civil defense forces and facilities of the State Emergency Service do not always promptly respond to emergencies, fires and other dangerous events because of their remoteness from the places of occurrence of such events”, states the Strategy for reforming the the system of the State Emergency Service.

As a result, people die, property burns down.

– In the European Union, according to statistics, fire kills 1 person per 100,000 residents. In Ukraine, depending on the year – 5-6 people, told former Deputy Chief Commander of the State Fire Guard of Poland, member of the Presidium of the Main Department of the Association of the Voluntary Fire Brigades of the Republic of Poland, General Marek Kowalski to hromadas of Dnipropetrovsk region during the online seminar, organized by the “U-LEAD with Europe” Programme.

So, it is time to learn from Europe. What is their success?

It turns out that in the EU fire safety is primarily the task of local governments. It is in the territory of the hromadas, where the volunteer fire brigades are located – security guards, the main combat unit in the fight against fire.

– Ukraine’s strategy to improve fire safety provides that fire and rescue services must reach the scene of emergency in 20 minutes, says Marek Kowalski. – But to fulfill this task, the Ukrainian hromadas need to build a strong network of volunteer fire brigades. It is the amalgamated hromadas that are able to cope with this process. Heads of the AHs and local governments must be responsible for fire safety in the AHs and form their own fire units. And the hromada residents shall be involved in these processes.

According to Mr. Kowalski, the EU and Poland are ready to help our rescuers and share their unique experience.

By the way, there are already some AHs in our region, whose representatives have got acquainted with the Polish experience and are implementing the best fire “life hacks”.

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The epidemic is not terrible with volunteers

– Last year we were one of three regions that became participants in a pilot project implemented by the “U-LEAD with Europe” Programme jointly with the Polish Association of Voluntary Fire Brigades, says head of the Dnipro regional office of the “U-LEAD with Europe” Programme Olena Tertyshna. – 6 our hromadas took part in this project and created their own fire brigades. This project was synergistic, it brought together many partners. On the one hand, our AHs, the “U-LEAD with Europe” Programme, Poland. On the other hand, structural subdivisions of the Ministry of Emergency of Ukraine.

The powerful “U-LEAD with Europe” Programme for participating hromadas involved a series of trainings on the basis of regional office. And in order the hromadas could efficiently fulfill this function, they were given free fire trucks and modern protective suits.

– In addition, we had training meeting of those firefighters who signed up and became members of voluntary fire brigades in the territorial hromadas, says Olena Tertyshna. – Heads of the hromadas who took part in this project became leaders of the voluntary fire movement. For example, head of Loshkarivka hromada Oleksandr Protchenko took part in the training on the basis of the State Emergency Service in Dnipropetrovsk region. He has lived in the barracks with his volunteers for two weeks and supported them.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, it has been found that those hromadas that participated in the project responded more quickly to emergencies and showed high ability to protect their hromadas.

– When the pandemic began, we came to the conclusion that the hromadas that created voluntary fire brigades were the most ready to take urgent measures, for example, to provide the elderly with food and protection equipment. Moreover, these hromadas did not stop working on the establishment of the local fire units during the quarantine. For example, Hrechani Pody AH has recently opened its own Security Center. They testified that due to fire safety system, jointly with volunteers, they can achieve more, says Olena Tertyshna.

Mykolaivka hromada promptly reacted to the pandemic as well.

– When all protection means disappeared and we couldn’t find them in the drugstores, Mykolaivka AH bought 7 thousand protective masks at its own expense. At the same time, these masks were with the enhanced protection. The masks were distributed to all hromada members with the instructions on how to use them. The hromada reacted so quickly that no disease has been recorded therein in this period, says the head of Dnipropetrovsk regional office.

By the way, according to results of the pilot project, Mykolaivka AH was recognized the best hromada. Therefore, in addition to equipment and special suits, it received special “prize” from the organizers of the project. Representatives of this AH were granted a medical box, which is equipped with all means of assistance in any emergency situation.

The hromada residents were shown what the volunteers have learned at the Firefighters Festival. The teams showed how skilled they were, how they overcome the obstacle line, perform teamwork during combat deployment.

– Residents understood that their lives are in safety if a voluntary fire brigade is created in the hromada, emphasizes Olena Tertyshna.

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We have the potential

The desire to help volunteer firefighters is confirmed in the Main Directorate of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk region.

– Heads of the AHs can establish either utility companies which fulfill tasks on a continuous basis, or voluntary brigades which can be involved in this or that case, explains deputy head of the Main Department Eduard Horbachov. – On our part, we strongly encourage and promote the development of this movement.

According to Eduard Horbachov, the law does not prohibit local governments from financially encouraging the volunteers.

In Poland, for example, the time spent on the work is counted: from the moment the team leaves for a fire until the moment they return to the base. During this time, everyone involved in the fire suppression receives money. All these people have job and help on a voluntary basis. They set the schedule who is on duty and when.

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– But most often they do not take money earned, but give it for the development of their fire brigade, says the expert. – Moreover, when the Poles pay taxes, they can indicate that a certain percentage of their money should be transferred for maintenance of the fire brigade.

The expert emphasizes that this country has a very developed network of voluntary fire brigades.

– There are no state units at the AH level. In fact, each territorial hromada has at least one unit. From what I have seen so far, 1 hromada has 8 (!) voluntary units. We have maximum 1, states Horbachov.

The fire unit in Poland is not only a security center, but also a center of cultural life of the hromada.

– The building has small conference halls, dining rooms for rent. There are alcoves in the territory, where local residents hold cultural and festive events for rent. Money goes to maintain fire units. From early age, they encourage children to go to fire unit, fulfill some duties, keep the territory clean. There is a voluntary fire brigade consisting exclusively of women. In general, the fire brigade in Poland accounts about 700,000 people! They have active firefighters who are directly involved in the liquidation, and there are veterans who share knowledge and experience. There are volunteer firefighters even in the Seim, says officer of the State Emergency Service.

Our expert is also familiar with the experience of Estonia, which also helps Ukraine in fire safety. But in this country there is no reward for volunteers at all.

– If they are volunteers, what kind of money it can be? There, the state allocates money only for the maintenance of equipment, fuel, says Eduard Vasylovych. – When they create a brigade which is ready to join the overall plan, they are allocated about EUR 10,000 for repair and petrol. People work for free.

But this country applies huge resources to fire safety.

– Estonia is the third part of Dnipropetrovsk region by size. However, there are over 80 state fire brigades in this territory. And in the whole Dnipropetrovsk region there are 68 fire brigades. And this despite the fact that the Dnipropetrovsk garrison is the largest in Ukraine!  says Eduard Horbachov.

Eduard Vasylovych took a direct part in the pilot project “U-LEAD with Europe” on the creation of voluntary fire brigades.

– For money allocated by U-LEAD, we trained volunteer firefighters and prepared 60 people!  says the deputy head of the Main Department with pride.

Our interlocutor is sure: volunteer fire brigades must be! Our population has great potential.

– The volunteer movement in 2014 proves this, he says. – The problem is first of all in local governments, I want them to have more opportunities. So far, the AH leaders are afraid that they will not be able to financially maintain firefighting equipment, buildings, utilities. Not all hromadas are ready to invest, not everyone understands that people’s lives are above all. They are counting on our units.

But, unfortunately, the number and location of our units do not overlap the existing territories. According to regulations, a fire unit within the territory of its locality must respond to a call in 10 minutes. Outside its locality – in 20 minutes. It’s about 13 km! And this is without taking into account the condition of our roads. For example, the unit located in the city of Nikopol is at a distance of 70 km from the extreme point of Nikopol raion.

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Thus, the maintenance of a full-fledged local fire brigade costs one and a half million hryvnias a year. It is expensive. But if it is a mixed – communal and voluntary brigade – the budget is reduced several times. In addition, it should be understood that the local fire brigade is a unit of the hromada. We coordinate them, but they primarily perform the tasks set by local governments. Using the right approach, they work out the money. After all, next to the fire truck you can put snow removal equipment and help the hromada in winter and summer. There are kindergartens, hospitals, where icicles must be removed. There are places where the roads must be clean, the trees taken away after a hurricane, explains the expert.

Large hromadas can afford themselves to maintain an entire Security Center. This is a place where the police stations, rescuers and health professionals are located nearby. Such Centers already exist, for example, in Slobozhanske and Sviatovasylivka AHs, the firefighters of the security center of Sursko-Lytovske AH are completing training.

– Jointly with the city executive committee and the Estonian party there is an idea to create the Security Center in Taromske, says Eduard Horbachov.

According to our expert, despite all difficulties, the process of forming the local fire brigades is well underway. To date, the most developed in this regard is Pavlohrad region. All hromadas in this region have 1 fire brigade.

– There are two brigades in Solone raion, one – in Kryvyi Rih, Sofiivka, Piatykhatky, Vasylkivka, Mezhova and other raions. We have a very good local fire brigade in Pishchanka of Novomoskovsk raion, combat units in Partyzanske and Bozhedarivka. They have been efficiently working for a long time, says Horbachov.

The volunteer movement is also gradually developing.

– For example, mixed brigades are working in Vasylkivka and Pavlohrad raions. A part of the rescuers are employees of the utility company, mostly drivers. But, if necessary, they are joined by volunteers. Volunteers receive a text message or a phone call and arrive at the scene of emergency, says the expert.

All members of local fire brigades shall undergo an appropriate training.

– The staff is selected by the AH. We teach them at the request of hromadas. Then they join the general plan.

And down to work!

– The Polish fire brigade is over 130 years old, they have learned a lot and are very proud of this. We are only at the beginning of this path, says Eduard Horbachov. – We still have everything ahead!

Source: Dnepr Vecherniy