Why is this important?
Since 2001, European countries have worked together to respond to natural and man-made disasters within the European territory and beyond. Under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, they have provided rescue teams, disaster assessment experts, specialised equipment and much more to bring relief to people in need.
Disasters happen unexpectedly, and response teams and equipment need to be deployed in the shortest time possible. Being prepared to intervene immediately in a disaster is crucial to reduce its damage to a minimum.
Under the existing EU Civil Protection Mechanism structure and based on new legislation, the European Emergency Response Capacity was set up to advance European cooperation in civil protection and enable a faster, better coordinated and more effective response to emergencies.
What are we doing?
The European Emergency Response Capacity (EERC, or 'voluntary pool') brings together a range of relief teams, experts and equipment from a number of EU countries. These assets are kept on standby and made available as soon as needed for EU civil protection missions all over the world.
In times of increasing disaster risks, this new body steps up the preparedness of EU civil protection response and allows for better organised, swifter and more coherent EU operations.
Since its launch in October 2014, ten countries have committed their response capacities within the EERC. These are: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. 18 response units are already registered; this includes for example 'urban search and rescue' teams, specialised medical air evacuation capacity, water purification equipment, high capacity pumping units, and forest fire fighting teams. Further capacities from Member States (flood containment, labs for environmental emergencies, marine pollution to name some) are in the process of being registered.
EU countries and the Commission work closely together to develop quality criteria and certification for the EERC and regularly engage in training and exercises to test and further improve performance and coordination.
The countries participating in the Emergency Response Capacity can benefit from EU financial support to upgrade their national response capacities; to pay for certification and training costs; and to cover up to 85% of costs related to the transport of teams and assets to a disaster area.
European Medical Corps
As part of the European Emergency Response Capacity, the European Medical Corps relies on voluntary contributions of EU Member States. Medical teams and equipment are made available so they can be rapidly deployed to provide medical assistance and public health expertise for emergencies inside and outside the EU.
By January 2016, nine Member States have already offered their specialised units to the European Medical Corps (Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden).
To date, two deployments of the European Medical Corps have been carried out, both in the context of the European response to the Ebola crisis.
The European Medical Corps will significantly increase the availability of doctors and medical equipment for future emergencies and thus reduce their consequences.
The Emergency Response Capacity is part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and the Emergency Response Coordination Centre serves as the main coordination hub for the deployment of teams and equipment during disasters.