VV JRC – coordinated rescue services means more lives saved

The project coordinated the rescue services between the twin cities of Valga in Estonia and Valka in Latvia in order to provide a more effective and efficient emergency response.

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The project built a more centrally located rescue station in Valga and purchased two emergency response vehicles for Valka. © Estonian Rescue Board The project built a more centrally located rescue station in Valga and purchased two emergency response vehicles for Valka. © Estonian Rescue Board

" One very important challenge was the lack of information about each other’s (Estonian and Latvian fire and rescue services) standard operating procedures. The rules and regulations in each country were very different, so the project proposed and helped implement ways to improve cross-border cooperation and knowledge about each other’s resources. "

Anu Roomere, Managing Authority

Even with Europe’s open borders and a shared slogan of ‘two countries, one city’, divisions still exist in the cities of Valga in Estonia and Valka in Latvia – which up until 1920 were a single city. And when these divisions involve emergency services and public safety, they can become life-threatening.

This is exactly the situation that the two cities found themselves in. Although twins in every sense of the word, they still operated administratively as two different entities. This meant each had their own emergency response services. However, it didn’t take long for first responders from both cities to realise that when things are as intertwined as they are in Valga and Valka, increasing the coordination between the two rescue services could only benefit area residents.

Every second counts

To improve efficiency and public safety, the VV JRC project set out to increase the quality of emergency services in Valga and Valka by deepening cross-border collaboration. In practice, what this meant was implementing clear lines of communication in order to clarify who does what in a cross-border rescue operation. 

In addition, the project took numerous steps towards improving the infrastructure needed to conduct joint rescue missions. For example, the project built a more centrally located rescue station in Valga and purchased two emergency response vehicles for Valka. With this infrastructure in place, cooperative agreements and procedures for conducting joint rescue missions were then implemented.

According to project organisers, because the two countries now belong to the Schengen area, it is essential that the two cities are positioned to come to each other’s assistance in times of crisis. This is particularly true when an accident occurs near the border and the rescue services on the other side are actually closer than those in the city where the accident occurred. Without coordinated procedures in place, valuable time could be lost – and in emergency situations, every second counts.  

Acting together to save lives

Perhaps one of the most important outcomes of the VV JRC project was the joint rescue mission training sessions it organised. One session involved a mock disaster scenario – a collision in Valka between a car and a minibus on the Pedeli river bridge, resulting in multiple victims and a potential gas leak into the river. The scale of this disaster would have overwhelmed the Valka rescue services alone, but when they could depend on the coordinated assistance from their Estonian counterparts, rescuers were able to react quickly and efficiently, potentially saving lives in such events.

Not only were training sessions like this important for the two cities’ rescue services, they also served as a public showcase of how Estonian and Latvian fire departments, police and ambulances are able to act together for a faster and more efficient service.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Valga-Valka Joint Rescue Capacity (VV JRC)” is EUR 2 343 453, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 991 932 through the “Estonia – Latvia” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Increased cohesion of the Programme area”.

Draft date

14/07/2016