On 22 July 2011 the Norwegian Red Cross (NRC) responded to the dual terror attacks that left 77 people dead and more than 150 injured in Norway’s capital Oslo and the nearby island of Utoeya. Red Cross Red Crescent Movement colleagues 3,500 kilometres away in Tel Aviv watched the news in horror, deeply concerned for the victims, their families, and the first responders in the NRC. Magen David Adom in Israel (IMDA) wanted to help.
IMDA wanted to seize this opportunity to share with the NRC their own stories, insight, and lessons learned driven from their own experience throughout the years. One of the key aspects of sustaining service to victims and ensuring the well-being of its staff during mass casualty incidents, depends on strong leadership and a resilient team of first responders.
With support from Internation Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and ICRC, as well as Tag International Development, IMDA hosted 25 staff from NRC for one week in September for a collaborative seminar on team resilience. Through lectures and practical exercises - including emergency simulations - team leaders learned the importance of mental and emotional well-being and practiced skills to help first responders process feelings during stressful emergency operations.
IMDA and NRC learned in this collaborative seminar that first responders who take care of one another are more able in turn to take care of victims.
This technical exchange was a continuation of an extensive partnership between the two National Societies, which previously included joint deployments to international disasters and participation in a number of planning exercises.
In support of this important relationship, the Norwegian Embassy hosted a reception for the entire Norwegian delegation, IMDA trainers and key staff. The deputy Ambassador and Minister Counsellor from Norway, Vebjorn Dibsik, thanked the guests for their dedication and commitment to serving the vulnerable. Jahn Petter Berentsen, the leader of the Norwegian Red Cross search and rescue team said: “Norway Red Cross is benefiting strongly from our cooperation with MDA.”
The Executive Chairman of IMDA, Dr. Noam Yifrach, acknowledged the unique relationship between the two National Societies and the importance of being there for those in need. “In times of trauma and great difficulty, it is our friends who remind us that we are not alone. It is their support that makes us strong,” he said.