On November 16-17, the PROACTIVE consortium, in conjunction with e-Notice, organized the second field exercise in CBRNE preparedness. This time, the host was Scuola Interforze per la Difesa N.B.C. from Rieti, Italy, which is part of the Esercito Italiano (Italian Army). The field exercise took place in its N.B.C. training facilities, close to Rieti.
Similarly to the previous field exercise, its role was to establish a common ground for procedure harmonization between the various categories of practitioners involved in a response to a CBRNE incident, as well as to understand how current practices deal with the needs of vulnerable citizens. At this field exercise, the scenario involved cooperation among several categories of first responders: from Carabinieri to firefighters, from medical emergency services to military units specialized in CBRNE. All the participants did their best to demonstrate they are ready to deal in a professional way with incidents of this sort.
The exercise has had a second important goal, namely to test the app developed as part of the PROACTIVE Project. This app is going to provide real-time notifications about CBRNE incidents across Europe and inform citizens about the appropriate measures they should take in order to protect themselves. Besides the “news” area, where incidents are shown on a dynamic map, the app contains a library with more information about CBRNE events and how the population should respond in this type of situation.
As part of the External Ethics Advisory Board (EEAB), my role was to evaluate the interaction of the first responders involved in the exercise with the volunteers that served as ‘victims’ of a chemical incident. My focus was on the ethical aspects related to the participation of people from various groups of vulnerable citizens to such an exercise, and, implicitly, on what can be improved in order to make a significant difference in a real life situation.
One of my key takeaways is that national governments and local authorities need to do more in terms of preparing the population for emergency situation. Not just through pinpointed communication campaigns, but as part of a continuous educational effort. And, in particular, it is crucial to make any communication and educational initiative available to all vulnerable groups, from people with vision impairments to those who go through extreme economic difficulties.
Now, even if it is not related to PROACTIVE Project in any way, I want to highlight the importance of a decision adopted by the Romanian Department for Emergency Situation in the past year, which is to catalogue the civilian shelters available across the country and tag them in a visible way. You might have seen these new signs showing a blue triangle on an orange square; this is the international sign of civil protection and it is in circulation since 1949. It was introduced in Romanian legislation in 1977. Unfortunately, these days, the authorities haven’t been able to communicate properly what this sign means and left this effort exclusively on the shoulders of Romanian mass-media.