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COUNT ON SCOUTS: Civil protection in times of sleet and ice in Slovenia
The cold and rainy beginning of February 2014 was in every way an extraordinary one for the most of Slovenian inhabitants. Sleet and ice caused damage on the trees, houses and electrical systems. That is why several thousand people spent more than a week without electricity. Some decades ago that would not be a problem, but that is not a case in the times when every basic human need depends on electricity – beginning with food which is prepared on electric stoves and central heating which fully depends on the electric system. The town of Postojna and its local community with more than 10 000 residents was confronted with severe sleet and living conditions were among the worst in the whole Slovenian territory. People were not able to cook, drink water, heat up their apartments, not even read in the evening and what is more, they were not being informed about the current conditions via radio, internet or television. Therefore local scouts decided to establish a daily crisis centre in the high school building in the town of Postojna.
Slovenian scouts are together with other nongovernmental organisations part of the Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief (ACPDR) and have the ability of quick logistic and technical intervention in the case of natural and other disasters. ACPDR is a constituent body of the Ministry of Defence and performs administrative and professional protection, rescue and relief tasks as well as other tasks regarding protection against conditions with which we were faced in the beginning of February. Having the technical knowledge of establishing provisional accommodations, of provisioning of basic living conditions and with enough operating members, scouts are an indispensable part of Slovenian society. Many of them are also first aid specialists, cavers, alpinists and mountain rescuers that are willing and able to help in different kind of dangerous situations.
Wednesday, 5th February was the first operational day of the so-called ‘crisis centre’ which was organised and led with the cooperation of Slovenian WOSM and WAGGS members. Main source of electricity for the centre was generator that provided current also for the nearby health centre. More than hundred scouts and other volunteers from all over Slovenia gathered in the crisis centre between 5th and 9th February where they provided working force for cleaning walking paths or were ready to help with delivering food and working in kitchen or in the call centre.
Civil society responded quickly and among individuals that brought food and beverages to the centre were also representatives of trading companies that provided larger amounts of dry food which was then packed and delivered to the residents who were not able to leave their homes because of the dangerous conditions outside (falling trees, sleet) or because of their personal disabilities.
Another service that was led in the crisis centre was also a call centre which operated as an information base and where people could call and tell what was that they need, what they have to offer (from food, physical help, warm accommodation, laundry washing...), whether their neighbourhood has electricity or not, where to deliver food...
Instead of staying in their cold homes, people could spend their day in the crisis centre where they could warm up, eat a warm meal, drink tea, read papers in the evening, watch television, charge cell phones, use computers or socialise. There were also mattresses prepared, in case of anyone having to spend a night in the centre. Activities for children were organised by scouts that are keen of working with them as the main scout method is working with and for youth in small groups.
Another problem was that of informing the residents about the crisis centre and that they can find help there. That is why groups of scouts went around the town every day, informing people (verbally and with fliers) that there exists a crisis centre. The groups were also checking on the electricity supply in different town areas and other villages around the town. They later reported the information about the conditions to the leader of the crisis centre.
More than 2,100 warm meals were served during the operation of the crisis centre (many of them also to the firefighters, soldiers and road workers that helped cleaning) and 570 packages of dry food delivered to different households around the town. Volunteers altogether carried out almost 4,000 hours of volunteer work.
Natural disasters always appear unexpectedly and we, scouts, are a good example of a quick, highly organised and well prepared community that knows how to react in unpleasant and dangerous conditions. For this reason, we shall not forget how important are we and other nongovernmental organisations for our society and its well-being.
Larisa Petrič for Rod kraških viharnikov (Postojna, Slovenia)
Photo: Pija Šarko (Eod kraških viharnikov Postojna, Slovenia) and others in day care center...