- The Third Reference Group Meeting>
The participants had discussions about nuclear & radiological emergency preparedness. The discussions included the activities of each country and efforts towards an RCRC Movement’s statutory meeting in 2015.
Summary of the Sessions (Day 3)
A core point for the discussions in the reference group was dedicated to the draft IFRC Guidelines. Therefore, a whole day was dedicated on this topic with a general presentation of the draft, the concept and ideas and challenges in developing it that far. Breakout sessions in smaller working groups looked at the specific phases of operation from preparedness to response to recovery.
A final session was focusing on practical examples from National Societies who have or are currently working on establishing relevant capacities for nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness.
A representative from the American RC presented the initial outline and structure of the draft document.
The discussions brought to the core that the document found in general a positive feedback to cover very comprehensively the issue and that the objective to provide a certain framework for the RC Movement has been achieved.
The draft IFRC Guidelines have been shared widely with specific stakeholders like members of the reference group, emergency support group, disaster management (DM) coordinators in the zone offices, other units in IFRC and ICRC but as well with relevant organisations outside the RC Movement. Several constructive written comments have been received which will also be taken into account for future review of the document.。
Operational guidelines in practice
The session gave some NSs the possibility to show their current activities in the area of (CB) RN preparedness and response.
Japanese RC elaborated on their activities since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET) in March 2011. In Japan, JRCS has taken several steps in getting better prepared for the future. Following clarification with the relevant authorities about the possible role JRCS will have in a nuclear emergency, they are developing their own guidelines and procured a number of specific equipment which was placed in relevant RC hospitals and chapters.
In close collaboration with the National Diet Library, JRCS has developed web-based digital archives which gather, compile and share various information on nuclear disaster preparedness and response.
Austrian RC gave a brief presentation on their general activities in the area of rescue and ambulance service, blood recruitment and donation, health and community services as well as disaster relief and training. In the specific area of CBRN, Austrian RC is a member of the Austrian national radiation protection working group as well as its branches are part of the regional plans for RN incidents.
Italian RC has their own national guidelines which describe the different ways of involvement of Italian RC. The guidelines describe the trainings staff and volunteers can receive, and specific rules for the protection of staff and volunteers in case of an emergency response. In the annex of the guidelines specific operational templates as well as a description of the technical equipment can be found. It is in the discretion of the president of Italian RC to deploy staff and volunteers to CBRN emergencies.
As a special service, Italian RC operates a central laboratory for gamma ray spectrometry in Rome. This laboratory is part of the national and European network to monitor natural and artificial ionising radiation.
ICRC provided an update on their activities from their CBRN hazards programme which is part of the weapons contamination unit. Their objectives are in line with the IFRC Guidelines in terms of protection of staff and volunteers, assure business continuity and then provide possible assistance to affected population.
ICRC is working on establishing capacity building activities, using expertise from inside and outside of the RC Movement.
Chernobyl Humanitarian Assistance and Rehabilitation Programme (CHARP)
In order to recap the activities and experiences from 23 years of CHARP, this session was presented by staff from the IFRC Europe zone office who also provided details about the planned operational review for CHARP.
Following a request from Soviet RC in 1989, IFRC has established a team of internal and external experts and concluded an assessment mission in early 1990. The findings of this mission to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine included several topics, namely: radiological & ecological, socio-economical, information, psychological, medical and data collection.
Based on this report, an initial programme to support the affected NSs and the population was established. Some of the results of the 1990 assessment are quite similar to findings from the assessments done in 2011 following the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident.
Some initial activities were to establish Mobile Diagnostic Laboratories (MDL) to measure radioactivity in the environment and people, provide safe food and also to collect and disseminate information about radioactivity. These activities have been slightly modified after an evaluation in 1996 and psychosocial support was reinforced with greater attention in the services provided to the affected population.
It was highlighted that after the initial years of operation and a number of evaluation missions, the programme changed some activities moving from emergency to longer term focused rehabilitation programmes.
Summary of the Sessions (Day 4)
After the presentations from IAEA and ICRP, the participants reviewed the resources within and outside of the RC Movement and discussed on-going/future actions and way forward.
To summarise the activities of 2014, specific objectives and milestones have been achieved. Following the reference group meeting in January 2014 in Geneva, focus was put on establishing the draft IFRC Guidelines.
The strategic action plan of the nuclear emergency preparedness is in full implementation with close collaboration with internal and external partners.
Additionally formal links with external partners were established. For example, IFRC became observer in the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies (IACRNE) and was also invited to work closely with the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) Working Party on Nuclear Emergency Matters (WPNEM). In May 2014, IFRC together with ICRC joined the WHO Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network (REMPAN) meeting and presented RC activities in the area of nuclear emergency preparedness.
Development of tools
To enhance the capacity of NS and IFRC to better prepare for nuclear emergencies and also to enhance their existing services, the work has started on different tools.
Beside the core task of developing the IFRC Guidelines, a set of training possibilities are discussed.
Italian RC has proposed to establish a summer school which shall cover a basic awareness training on radiological and nuclear emergency preparedness.
Together with the IFRC emergency health team in Geneva, an e-learning course covering the basics of radiation protection is under the development.
The IFRC reference centre on psychosocial support, based in Copenhagen, Denmark; has followed up on the experiences gained after the GEJET. Some of their tools already make reference to lessons learned from GEJET. In addition, they are taking part in a consortium to develop specific tools for psychosocial support in the follow up of a CBRN accident.
Pool of experts
The concept for a joint pool of experts has been presented and briefly discussed. The aim of this activity is to create an international deployable pool for CBRN which will be scenario specific called upon. The pool should consist of existing National Society capacities. Depending on its relevant tasks and duties on the long term it shall contribute to harmonised procedures, training, and equipment.
To make it closely linked with the existing emergency response structures, a regional focus is foreseen. NSs could act as thematic focal points e.g. Having an expertise and relevant equipment to support other NS in case of a nuclear emergency.
The participants discussed about what kind of specific profile might be requested as for advisors. It might be easier to set up this capacity than developing complete emergency units. Available specialised units may also be set up according to their national standards which might not be compatible to regulations and requirements in other countries.
The following points will be addressed in the coming months:
- Mapping of existing capacities in CBRN preparedness / response of RC National Societies (in close cooperation with zone offices)
- Support to CHARP operational review where possible
- Engaging with other existing working groups to raise awareness of RN preparedness and seek possible linkages
- Promote the engagement of NS in the nuclear accidents preparedness programme at relevant meetings and regional conferences
- Further develop the FedNet pages and elaborate on the knowledge base for nuclear emergencies and include relevant documents
- Develop with the IFRC resource centre on preparedness (http://preparecenter.org/) a topics page on nuclear emergency preparedness
Nuclear emergency preparedness in connection with relevant proposed topics shall be brought up to the 32nd International Red Cross Conference in Geneva in December 2015. The participants stressed that this International Conference will be a good opportunity to demonstrate to participating governments what capacities the RC NSs have for such disasters, so the participants should use the momentum and prepare accordingly.