Firefighters teach Macedonian colleagues top techniques

Macedonian firefighters learning USAR techniques

Thirty firefighters from Macedonia have spent two weeks being put through their paces by their colleagues from Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS). These Fire-fighters are being trained to instructor level so that they can return to their country and train others.

They have been undertaking specialist training in the use of breathing apparatus, responding to road traffic collisions, and in Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) techniques.

They will now return to Macedonia and train their fellow firefighters there in the skills they have learned during their visit to Bristol.

The project has taken place under the banner of Operation Florian, which is an international humanitarian charity which provides fire engines, equipment and training to the world’s poorest regions.

AF&RS got involved through Area Manager Rob Davis who has been involved in the project since 1998 after he did some work in Bosnia training demobilised military personnel to become firefighters.

Earlier this year Rob attended a fire service humanitarian aid seminar in Manchester, and it was announced there that there was a desperate need to help make the Macedonian fire service more resilient.

AM Davis said: “At the time there was some spare training capacity at the Severn Park Centre to help them.”

Severn Park Fire & Rescue Training Centre is a regional centre catering for the needs of Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service, Avon Fire & Rescue Service, and Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Training Service.

It is a PFI venture between those three services and their private partner, Babcock International Ltd.

In March this year, Rob and colleague Neil Liddington went to Macedonia to undertake a needs assessment on the nation’s training and firefighting facilities.

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The 30 Macedonians have been put through their paces and will return to all different parts of their home country to pass on the skills and techniques they have already learned from UK instructors over there and from their time here.

Rob said: “It has been a learning experience for everyone involved.

“Hopefully the Macedonians will have some useful new skills and techniques. For the UK instructors who have been involved, it has been an extremely good development opportunity for them, trying to train someone whose first language is not English.”

AF&RS has been particularly pleased to provide the USAR training.

Rob explained: “Ten of the Macedonians are training as USAR technicians with the aim of creating some USAR hubs, as they are prone to earthquakes and the like, and the aim is to provide a more resilient response to potential future earthquakes within Macedonia and its neighbour countries.

“When the former Yugoslavia broke up, the national fire service that had been controlled from Belgrade dissolved, and has basically had to be built up from scratch again.

“We are hoping to bring another  group of Macedonians over next year if we can, do that three USAR hubs can be created to protect not only Macedonia, but possibly assist the United Nations and their neighbouring countries at times when USAR expertise could be invaluable.”

Operation Florian was founded in 1995 by UK firefighters who wanted to share their expertise and experience with parts of the world that suffer from fire and emergency situations but which lack the equipment and training needed to save lives.

Since 2007, Operation Florian – named after the patron saint of firefighters - has been actively involved in helping to build the capacity of the local and national fire and rescue service.

For more information on Operation Florian, visit www.operationflorian.com