Nato-Russia Council

NRC Civil Emergency Planning: 10 Years 10 Stories Anniversary Feature

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The number of natural and man-made disasters across the NRC area is increasing. International cooperation is often vital to mitigating the consequences of disasters. Work done in the NRC Civil Emergency Planning and Protection working group helps nations to prepare to work together in a crisis quickly and efficiently, in what are often life or death situations. 

A long history of cooperation on civil emergencies

Practical cooperation between NRC nations in the field of Emergency Planning began in the early nineties, when NATO and Russia cooperated together on a United Nations Project on the Use of Civil Defence Assets in Disaster relief. This cooperation was formalised in 1996, when a Memorandum of Understanding on Civil Emergency Planning and Disaster Preparedness between Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations and NATO was signed.

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An important outcome of this practical cooperation was the creation in 1998, on the basis of Russian Proposal for enhanced practical cooperation in the field of international disaster relief, of the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC). This centre continues to serve as a key focal point for coordinating disaster relief among participating nations.  

After the establishment of the NATO Russia Council in 2002, the Civil Emergency Planning and Protection Working Group was created. This is the forum where NRC nations address issues such as the protection of civilian populations, protection of critical infrastructure and disaster preparedness and response.

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Exercising together to enhance preparedness for disasters

The focus of the Civil Emergency Planning and Protection working group has always been on practical achievements from which all NRC members could benefit. In this context since 2002 the working group has organised and conducted a series of consequence management exercises in NRC member states using different types of scenarios to practice responding together to a range of disasters. In 2002 the field exercise in Noginsk (Russia) focused on dealing with the consequences of a chemical terrorist attack. The field exercise conducted in Kaliningrad in 2004 also had a focus on terrorism. An oil platform off the coast of Kaliningrad was the target of a terrorist attack which resulted in a high number of casualties, and a major oil spill threatening coastal areas. The evacuation of the casualties and a request for international assistance followed the attack and nations practised working together against the disastrous consequences. In 2006, a radiological attack scenario was the focus of a field exercise in Rome. In this case a dirty-bomb resulted in numerous casualties and several NRC nations were required to deploy teams to the stricken area provide assistance in dealing with the consequences of radiation.

The importance of interoperability for emergency response

The common element of all exercises conducted under the auspices of the NRC is that they provided NRC nations with the opportunity to train and exercise emergency response teams from different nations in working together under the most challenging scenarios. In addition, all field exercises were combined with workshops or seminars, focussing on other important areas of practical cooperation such as providing information to the public and crisis communication during emergency situations, the legal aspects of international emergency response, border crossing arrangements, and medical and psychological aspects of emergency response.

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Natural and manmade disasters – a common security challenge for the NRC

As part of the NRC “Joint Review of 21st Century Security Challenges” the working group made an assessment of challenges in the field of natural and man-made disasters within the NRC area, and suggested areas in which NRC cooperation would be beneficial going forward in 2012 and beyond. The conclusion of this assessment led to the identification of the benefits of NRC practical cooperation on Risk Reduction, and Capability and Capacity building. With the number of natural and man-made disasters increasing, the importance of cooperation in the NRC in preparation for coordinated responses to mitigate the consequences for all will continue to grow. 

Kaliningrad Exercise

Click here to read a detailed article on the 2004 Kaliningrad Civil Emergency Planning Exercise hosted by the Russian Federation.