Over 500 volunteers take part in Finnish Red Cross preparedness exercise

Published: 1 June 2010 0:00 CET

Sanna Räsänen, Finnish Red Cross

On Friday 14 May, the Finnish Red Cross staged a preparedness exercise in south-west Finland. Volunteers were trained how to help if a heavy storm hit the area – hence the name of the exercise, Myrskytuuli 2010, or storm wind 2010. The theoretical disaster work focused on giving first aid to victims of a traffic accident, purifying dirty water, evacuating passengers from a vessel in distress, giving them first assistance and emotional support, and finding people lost on an island in the archipelago.

The notional scenario for the exercise was that Finland had been hit by a low-pressure system, exceptionally strong for the season. Storm warnings had been issued for the seas, and the wind on land was a dangerous 108 km/h. Heavy rains were sweeping over south-west Finland with seawater levels rising by up to a metre.

"I’ve had very positive feedback both from volunteers and representatives of the authorities who took part in the exercise," said Tommi Virtanen, operations leader for the exercise and preparedness manager for the Finnish Red Cross south-west district.

"The volunteers were highly motivated and performed exceptionally well. The authorities, too, were very pleased to have had an opportunity to test their preparedness. Naturally, the exercise revealed areas where we still need to do more work."

"It is obvious to us who work for the Red Cross what we should do when things are normal, but we need to think even more about how to divide the labour during a disaster," added Virtanen.


Four scenarios were used during the exercise:

1. A bus accident training exercise with more than 70 volunteers acting as patients or giving first aid

A simulated bus accident takes place on the Särkänsalmen silta bridge in Naantali with 40 passengers injured in various ways. First aid groups and Red Cross international aid delegates learned how to best assist the injured passengers.

2. An evacuation and first assistance at the Viking Line terminal building

The scenario was a passenger vessel in distress at night. A Viking Line cruise ship had taken on board passengers from a smaller vessel. When they dock in the harbour, they are met by Red Cross first assistance volunteers.

Participants at the evacuation control were very important because the exercise will become the basis of a model that the Finnish Red Cross will use for evacuation situations at all harbours.

The manager of the Viking Line Turku Terminal, Lars-Gustav Hellman, said, "We have plans for handling situations like this, both in ports and on board, but this is the first exercise of its kind."

3. An evacuation of a school in the archipelago and a search for missing people
An evacuation centre was set up at the Våno school in Väståboland, a sparsely populated town consisting of 10,000 islands and islets. Local volunteers checked that inhabitants were coping, despite the long powercut caused by the storm. A search for missing people was organized on the island of Mielisholm.

4. River water purification for drinking in Turku

At three water-purifying controls, Red Cross volunteers trained for situations where for some reason clean water is not available. The aim of the exercise was to make water from the Aurajoki river, which runs through the city of Turku, drinkable.