By Giovanni Zambello, IFRC and Milica Kovacevic, Montenegro Red Cross
Every second Wednesday of October, the world marks International Day of Disaster Reduction. It is an opportunity for Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world to highlight the importance of disaster preparedness in order to minimize the humanitarian impact of natural disasters.
The Montenegro Red Cross (MRC) recently participated in an international disaster simulation exercise "Medceur 2010", held in Danilovgrad, and jointly organized by the Montenegro Ministry of Defense and the Command of American forces for Europe.
The joint military-medical exercise brought together military and medical teams from Montenegro as well as from Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, the United States and Ukraine, who demonstrated their skills and expertise in emergency situations.
Nine months after the country was struck by severe flooding in several municipalities Montenegro Red Cross has proved its ability and commitment to tackle vulnerability and build safer and more resilient communities.
"As defined by the Red Cross Law, the role of the Montenegro Red Cross is fully integrated into the national response system, under the shelter and disaster preparedness section of the Ministry of Interior," said Goran Petrusic, Disaster management coordinator of the Montenegro Red Cross and 'commander-in-chief' of the whole exercise. "So our role is central in the provision of first aid and disaster preparedness training on a national level. But this is the first time that such an event has taken place in Montenegro, and the fact that our National Society has been involved by national authorities proves the extent to which our role within the disaster preparedness and response system is taken into consideration."
The main responsibility of the Montenegro Red Cross during the practical sessions of the exercise was to build temporary shelters in an emergency context. About 20 staff and volunteers from MRC participated in setting up a tent settlement.
On the last day of the exercise, Montenegro Red Cross, besides displaying its shelter activities, held an improvised first aid simulation in different disaster scenarios, including fires, chemical spills, and extracting injured people from vehicles after an accident, to present another facet of the National Society's expertise in emergency situations.
"Such joint training exercises, especially in light of the International Day for Disaster Reduction are crucial to highlight the role of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in risk reduction activities, as well as to strengthen cooperation mechanisms between different actors involved in disaster preparedness and response in Europe," underlined Slobodanka Curic, Disaster Management Coordinator at the IFRC Europe Zone Office, in Budapest.