Follow-up: 3.000 participants in Barents Rescue Exercise, September 2011

Large distances, long and cold winters, sparsely populated areas, and last but by no means least national borders, make the Barents Region a challenge in rescue operations. A new feature, however, is the possible effects of climate change.

BR11_logo.gif The main part of the scenarios 2011 presented a climate change related chain of events: high waters due to continuing rain and a major dam collapse. The consequences were severe with washed away bridges and tunnels, accidents on rail, roads and sea, chemical leakage, and needs of large rescue operations and evacuations.

The exercise started off with one day allowing for firefighters, medical personnel, rescue services and police from all four countries to meet within their branches. The two following days were official exercise days with a derailed train in Jokkmokk as main scenario the first day. The second day the situation escalated with a leakage of real ammonium in Boden, a collapsed tunnel, a boat collision, and fire on the ice-breaker Atle. In addition to all the practical parts of the exercise, it also involved authorities such as the three municipalities of Jokkmokk, Luleå, and Boden, and the County Administrative Board of Norrbotten that were all put under a lot of stress from the tight series of serious accidents and from media gamers pretending - as part of the exercise - to be journalists from Swedish and international media. Sweden being a country with experience in assisting others was now under such pressure that it for the first time requested foreign help.

– Rescue personnel from all four countries cooperated on a practical level. For example, Finnish and Swedish air ambulance rehearsed a joint evacuation of injured. We are impressed by our Russian colleagues who travelled for two days driving from Murmansk to Luleå and it is as far as I know the first time that Russian rescue personnel participates in a practical exercise in Sweden. As rescue professionals tend to think the same way the language barrier was less of a problem than we had first anticipated, says Lars Hillerstrom, Exercise Director, to BarentSaga.
The exercise was run from the regiment in Boden serving as a base camp for the exercise hosting 850 people with a great variety of tasks. Among many others, the base camp housed the media gamers producing news on the events, and the whole head quarter of the exercise running the exercise via Exonaut – an exercise support program containing the series of events into which new tasks and orders are issued depending on the developments.
– All four countries are participating in almost all steps of the exercise - in the preparations, in the practical operations, and in the evaluation process. The most important result of this year’s exercise is that rescue professionals from the Barents countries worked together, exchanged experience and expertise, and built confidence for mutual benefit not only between organizations but also on an individual level, explains Lars Hillerstrom.
The Barents Rescue Exercise 2011 was organized by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and cost approx. 2,6 million EURO. The final evaluation will be presented in early February, 2012, most likely in Luleå. It will be available on
The Barents Rescue Exercise is a civilian exercise. It takes place once every second year and is the largest cross-boundary emergency exercise in the Barents Region. It was earlier arranged in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009.The exercise is hosted by the country chairing the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. Consequently, the next exercise takes place in Norway 2013.

Slideshow from the rescue exercise

Photos: Anna Lund


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