The Scottish Emergency Rescue Association (SERA) left Rosyth bound for Zebrugee on Thursday 20th August 2009 with four fire engines and two ambulances. Fifteen of a crew made the journey, three per vehicle, consisting of firefighters, medics, mechanics, technicians and a driving instructor.
Leaving Zebrugee on the Friday morning about 1000hrs we faced a number of mechanical issues and thunderstorms during the run across Europe through Belguim, Holland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania and finally crossing the border into Moldova – a total of 1500 miles, where we were met by the Moldovan Fire Service team.
The Moldovan Fire Service escorted us into the town of Nisporeni where we were to be based and we arrived in the town under blues and twos early on Sunday evening. The vehicles were dropped off at the training area which had twenty-four hour security cover provided by the Fire Service and we retired to our accommodation nearby for a well-deserved meal and a good night’s sleep.
The following morning could best be described as organised chaos! This was our first meeting with the Moldovan Firefighters, the translators, the dignitaries and senior representatives from the fire service, all of whom would prove invaluable over the coming week of training. At the same time we had to offload and organise the massive amount of equipment and supplies we brought with us.
The ambulances were full of medical supplies destined for the local hospital and with trauma equipment for training and leaving with the firefighters and their medics.The four fire engines were also full of standard fire service equipment – particularly UK standard PPE and breathing apparatus, used to protect the lives of firefighters along with road traffic collision (RTC) equipment.
All equipment for these trips is donated by UK Fire and Rescue Services to the Edinburgh based SERA team over the preceding year. The equipment is generally surplus to requirements in the UK, but with many years life left and is thoroughly checked, serviced and standard tested by experienced SERA firefighters and mechanics. Donating surplus equipment to teams such as SERA, rather than dumping or destroying the equipment is saving lives in Eastern Europe and in other countries where similar projects are active and is something that co-operating Fire and Rescue Services should be justifiably proud of.
The training during the week focussed on breathing apparatus (BA) including command and control, RTC, pumps, ladders, trauma and driving instruction. The firefighters, being capable individuals, soon pick up on the techniques and procedures taught to UK standards, starting with the basics search techniques and working towards self-preservation in BA, safe extrication techniques from crashed vehicles, rapid and safe deployment of pumps and ladders, and the ability to preserve life using the trauma training.
After a successful week the keys to the vehicles were formally handed over to the Moldovans during a traditional style ceremony in the training yard. This was attended by the mayor, local dignitaries and some very senior Fire Service/Military personnel and was promptly followed by an excellent barbeque in the hills above Nisporeni.
On Saturday morning a very tired crew were picked up from the accommodation by the Moldovan firefighters and taken to the Romanian border on the way to Bucharest to catch our flight to Heathrow. Finally arriving safely back in Edinburgh on the Sunday afternoon.
All-in all a successful trip! All the vehicles made it to Moldova, the training went well and we made some good friends among the Moldovans while working with them.
We hope the training, techniques and safe working practices we passed on will help keep the firefighters safe and allow them to assist and keep their community safe in the years to come.