Cross-border Polish and Czech firefighters are better equipped for action
The EU-funded project facilitated cooperation between the various volunteer fire brigades located in the cross-border region of the Czech Republic and Poland, helping to improve the working and social facilities for the volunteers, updating their equipment and instilling a sense of mutual respect.
" The Czech-Polish firefighters project was successful, very beneficial and brought new awareness to the region about volunteer firefighters and their activities. "
The Czech Republic and Poland cross-border region is dotted with small mountain villages. However, size does not exempt them from emergencies experienced by larger communities. But unlike bigger cities, towns like Lánov in the Czech Republic and Szklarska Poreba and Karpacz in Poland depend on small, volunteer-run fire brigades often forced to use outdated equipment, which also makes it difficult to recruit the next generation of volunteers.
Realising brigades on both sides of the border faced the same challenge, the authorities from these towns decided to pool resources and know-how.
An exercise in cross-border cooperation
The idea started in Lánov where, having looked at what was happening across the border, the volunteer firefighters realised that since fires know no boundaries, neither should the fire brigades. So, they proposed better cooperation with the fire brigades across the border in neighbouring Szklarska Poreba and Karpacz.
During the project, the authorities organised an array of joint exercises between the Polish and Czech brigades and facilitated the exchange of information and best practices. They also launched a youth education programme aimed at teaching young people about fire safety and explaining the essential role the volunteers play, thereby stimulating their interest as possible future firefighters.
Another popular outcome was a bilingual fire-safety leaflet that was distributed to citizens in all three towns. The leaflet provided information and instructions on how to behave during a crisis and included a dictionary of technical terms and commands.
As a result of these cross-border efforts, brigades in both countries have improved their ability to effectively respond to fires and other emergencies. The project also brought the two communities closer together, both economically and socially.
New facilities, new equipment, new faces
In addition to cross-border cooperation efforts, the project helped each country’s brigades individually. For example, on the Czech side, it funded the reconstruction of the Lánov fire station and helped with the purchase of new equipment. This in turn has brought the brigade a new-found level of respect from the local community – while interest in young people and potential new recruits has increased significantly.
On the Polish side, new youth fire brigades have been formed – previously, only adult groups were established, which made recruiting the next generation of firefighters difficult. Furthermore, a new fire house was built in Karpacz.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Cooperation and exchange of experience among firefighters in municipalities Lánov, Szklarska Poreba and Karpacz” is EUR 713 393 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 606 384 through the “Czech Republic - Poland” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.