eppr - Safe Arctic - Inter-Agency Experimental Research Exercise in the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

Safe Arctic - Inter-Agency Experimental Research Exercise in the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

22 September 2021
Russian Federation held a series of exercises and events 7-8 September 2021 throughout its Arctic zone as a part of the Russian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and EPPR project Arctic Rescue. Read the detailed summary of events provided in this article by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, EMERCOM.

In May 2021, Russia began its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, consisting of the eight Arctic States, Russia, Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States, and six Indigenous organizations, the Permanent Participants. Under the coordination of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia (EMERCOM), with the participation by other agencies as well as foreign partners, two Russian-led projects are being implemented within the framework of the Arctic Council Working Group on Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response: "Safety systems in implementation of economic and infrastructural projects" and "Arctic Rescue". The current exercise was part of the second project, being its practical implementation.

On 7 September, in four constituent entities of the Russian Federation, within the framework of a large-scale inter-agency experimental research exercise for the implementation of protection measures from emergencies within the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, exercise scenarios of possible emergencies specific to the exact territories were carried out.

In the water area of the Barents Sea, the rescue units of the EMERCOM of Russia carried out several scenarios for the elimination of conventional emergencies. During the exercise, practical actions were developed to respond to the accident on a passenger vessel Princess Anastasia, and at diving work at an underwater potentially hazardous facility.

The first exercise scenario was a notification of an accident on the cruise ship Princess Anastasia. There were almost 2700 passengers and 390 crew members on board. Practical actions to eliminate a conditional fire included measures to simulate fire extinguishing by the crews of sea-going vessels. The victims in need of emergency medical assistance were evacuated by Ka-32 helicopters of the Russian Emergencies Ministry and Ka-27 of the Northern Fleet. They were taken to the mobile hospital of the FMBA (Federal Medical-Biological Agency of the Russian Federation) at Cape Belokamenny and aboard a small rescue ship from the Murmansk Arctic Complex Emergency Rescue Center of the EMERCOM of Russia. Most of the victims were accommodated on motor ship Claudia Elanskaya. Also, the paratrooper group of the MI-8 helicopter of the Northern Fleet was involved in the exercises, with a small sea-borne rescue kit being alerted to evacuate victims from the water. To prevent the spread of oil products in the water area, a rescue tug and a boat were involved in the response.

The second exercise scenario was a message about the discovery of a floating object, similar to a surfaced mine from the Second World War. Pyrotechnic works at depth were carried out by divers of the Center for Special Risk Rescue Operations "Leader" of the EMERCOM of Russia. Rescue operations were complicated by strong winds, but the RSChS (Russian System of Prevention and Response to Emergencies) group of the Murmansk region coped with the task. In total, the RSChS group of the Murmansk region, consisting of over 600 specialists and more than 60 pieces of equipment, was involved in practical activities.

A Broad Program of Social and Cultural Events

A broad program of social and cultural events was presented to the guests and participants of the Arctic exercise. As part of the inter-agency exercise in the Arctic, a cultural and leisure program was held, the events of which were designed to acquaint residents and guests of the northern territories with the safety rules and first aid. In addition, events for preschoolers, schoolchildren and students, as well as exhibitions of technology, contests and sports events were organized under the flag of the EMERCOM of Russia.

An exhibition of fire and rescue equipment was held on one of the central streets of Norilsk. Residents and guests of the city were able to get acquainted with special fire and rescue equipment. In the city museum, a mobile laser complex for remote cutting, a controlled underwater camera and much more were presented. Moreover, there was a children's safety camp in Norilsk, where specialists from the Center for Emergency Psychological Aid conducted preventive fire-fighting and first aid classes with young visitors.

Foreign delegations arrived in Murmansk to participate in the business program. They were not only able to witness the rescue operations in the water area of the Kola Bay, but also to visit the sightseeing tour of the hero city of Murmansk. The highlight of the excursion was the world's first surface vessel with a nuclear power plant – the icebreaker Lenin. Also, as part of the exercise, the world's northernmost monument to a fire engine was unveiled.

Dozens of master classes were held on the territory of the Murmansk sea terminal, where visitors could get acquainted with the rules of safe behavior and first aid. Various types of innovative rescue equipment were presented in the exhibition program.

In the general educational institutions of Chukotka, classes on life safety were held. In Anadyr and Pevek, representatives of the EMERCOM met with preschool children and told them about fire safety. Firefighters told school children about the importance of evacuation plans and fire detectors, reminded them of the rules and procedures in case of fire. For those of the students who are interested in choosing a profession, employees of the EMERCOM told about the possibility of admission to higher educational institutions of the EMERCOM and shared insights of the professions of a firefighter and an inspector of state fire supervision. In Egvekinot, GIMS (State Inspection of Small Vehicles) inspectors came to visit the school children and talked about the safety rules on the water. Security-related events took place in all educational institutions in the region.

In addition to refinement of scenarios and organizing a cultural program, the organizers of the Exercise paid special attention to the ecology of the region. As part of the environmental campaign "Clean World of the Arctic", helicopters of the EMERCOM have already removed 4 tons of oily waste located in the southern part of Lake Ayan on the territory of the Putoransky Reserve – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The business program of the inter-agency experimental research exercise "Safe Arctic" was characterized by a large number of activities involving experts, scientists and officials of the EMERCOM of Russia.

In Yakutsk, in the museum complex “My History”, a round table “Potential of scientific research in Yakutia to reduce the negative impact of climate change in the Arctic zone” was held. During the event, participants discussed issues related to climate change in Yakutia over the past 50 years, including the impact of global warming on the forest fire situation in Eastern Siberia.

Resilience of Indigenous People, Cities and Businesses in the Arctic

As part of the business program, a round table "Resilience of Indigenous People, Cities and Businesses in the Arctic" was held in Murmansk. The event was carried out in close collaboration with international actors, in particular, with the Arctic Council Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), as well as with the Social, Economic, and Cultural Expert Group (SECEG) of SDWG, which supports work to advance social, economic and cultural research in the development of sustainable and integrated approaches emerging in the Arctic region. This event was of particular importance regarding Russia's Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The results of the roundtable will serve as a basis for developing solutions that contribute to ensuring the security of the Arctic region.

Safe Arctic Plenary Session

Relevant issues of inter-agency interaction in ensuring security in the Russian Arctic were discussed in an international format. The Plenary session was chaired by Alexander Chupriyan, First Deputy Minister of EMERCOM of Russia. The agenda presented a wide range of issues of strategic importance for the development and security of the Arctic: from the socio-economic potential of the region to environmental concerns and emergency response.

“An exercise of this scale is being held for the first time in the Arctic. In addition to the practical part, the events of the business program are of great importance. Roundtable participants raise a wide range of issues specific to ensuring the security of the Arctic. Representatives of 14 states arrived in the Murmansk region to take part in a large-scale exercise. The opportunity to connect to online activities also makes it possible to significantly increase the interest of foreign participants, increase their number and expand geography,” Alexander Chupriyan noted, opening the business training program from the city of Norilsk via video conferencing.

During the session, special attention was drawn to the fact that the growing economic activity in the Arctic region, along with the increasing frequency of natural disasters, requires increased attention to the problems of crisis management. In this regard, the tasks of a preventive response, effective and well-coordinated interaction in the elimination of the consequences of emergencies in the Arctic are becoming more urgent.

During the session, special attention was drawn to the fact that the growing economic activity in the Arctic region, along with the increasing frequency of natural disasters, requires increased attention to the problems of crisis management.

The panelists noted that it is important to rely not only on their own developments, but also to openly approach the exchange of best practices with foreign colleagues both on a bilateral basis and in the format of international organizations. This opportunity is provided by the Arctic Council Working Group EPPR, and the leaders and representatives of EPPR also attended the exercise. The participants and guests of the event agreed that minimizing the risks on the territory of the Arctic Zone is possible with the coherence of efforts and actions by all stakeholders in economic activities and participants of the RSChS. The present experimental research exercise was able to demonstrate such a common interest in security matters.

In general, more than a hundred interested representatives from two dozen states took part in the plenary session, united by one goal – the development of a unified regional search and rescue system in the Arctic. The participants were representatives of foreign emergency services, the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Arctic States from Finland, Norway, Canada, USA, Kingdom of Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Arctic Council Obserever states China, Italy, Switzerland, South Korea, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, India, among others. A total of 50 representatives from 20 foreign countries took part in the exercise. Also, the exercise was attended by representatives of an Arctic Council Observer, international organization the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), specialized foreign media "Polar Journal", as well as representatives of a foreign scientific and educational institution, the Italian Hydrographic Institute of the Italian Navy. Two Arctic Council Working Groups, EPPR and SDWG, attended the event.

The discussions also identified challenges to be addressed at the level of inter-agency collaboration in accordance with the Presidential Decree "On the Strategy for the Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and Ensuring National Security for the period until 2035". Some of them are: the development of Arctic integrated emergency rescue centers, including the expansion of their technical and tactical capabilities related to the prevention of emergencies and response to such situations, improvement of their structure, composition and logistics, expansion of the basing infrastructure, and also the organization of exercises and trainings to check the readiness of the forces and means of the Arctic states to eliminate natural and man-made emergencies, including those arising from the implementation of large economic and infrastructure projects.

Article by the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation.