The European Emergency Response Capacity (EERC) was established to advance European cooperation in civil protection and enable a faster, better-coordinated and more effective European response to natural and man-made disasters. The EERC, commonly referred to as the voluntary pool, currently brings together resources from 23 participating states, ready for when the next disaster strikes. These resources can be rescue or medical teams, experts, specialised equipment or transportation. Whenever a disaster strikes and a request for assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism is received, assistance is drawn from this pool.
In 2017, forest fires, severe floods, storms, earthquakes and landslides resulted in loss of lives and devastated whole regions. Climate change is predicted to further exacerbate the effects of such disasters. When these disaster strike, response teams, technical equipment and other resources need to be deployed in the shortest time possible. Being well prepared to intervene immediately in a disaster is crucial to save lives and to minimise damage.
At times of increasing disaster risks the European Emergency Response Capacity allows for better-organised and more coherent EU operations. The European Commission has set up a certification and registration process to ensure that experts or technical equipment can be deployed most effectively. Certifications help to ensure that national capacities are of high quality and comply with international standards. The European Commission, with the support of peers nominated by the participating states, assesses the capacities. Experts also need to participate in disaster simulation exercises to train together with peers and other teams for emergencies, in Europe and worldwide.
Since its creation in 2014, 23 participating states have offered 99 specialised response capacities on a voluntary basis to the pool. These resources are only deployed for response operations following a request for assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
The European Commission provides financial and technical support to capacities that are part of the voluntary pool during response operations. Participating states are reimbursed 85% of costs related to transport of equipment needed to respond to a disaster. Experts can also be deployed to consult communities to better prepare for disasters. Resources that only work well within one participating state are financed to be adapted to international standards.
Recent response operations using resources from the voluntary pool include:
Forest fires in the south of Europe in 2017
In 2017, the south of Europe experienced severe forest fires which resulted in the tragic loss of human life and property. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated 17 times for forest fire emergencies in Europe. Assistance could be sent 10 times from one of the participating states to Portugal, Italy, Montenegro, France, and Albania. As part of the voluntary pool, two firefighting airplanes from Italy, two airplanes from Spain and three planes from France were mobilised.
Health emergencies in central and western Africa from 2014 – 2017
The European Medical Corps was deployed in response to the yellow fever outbreak in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Marburg fever outbreak in Uganda. In Angola, a public health assessment team analysed the spread of yellow fever and mobile laboratories were sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The Medical Corps was created in response to the shortfall of medical staff during the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.
Hurricane Matthew in Haiti in 2016
Shortly after hurricane Matthew made landfall, Haiti activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism asking for international assistance. In response, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre coordinated support to Haiti from the pool which consisted of two water purification units. The units were deployed to the heart of the crisis zone in Haiti and was operated by 60 rescue workers from the French Civil Protection Military Corps. They purified more than 1.2 million liters of drinking water to halt the spread of diseases such as cholera. The French teams worked together with UNICEF, Haitian authorities and various national and international NGOs.