Take united action against the unpredictable

Several serious accidents in the south of Belgium and northern France have led to the creation of project APPORT (Aide à la Préparation des Plans Opérationnels des Risques Transfrontaliers) (Aid for the preparation of cross-border risk operational plans). Result: a joint strategy to improve effectiveness in disaster prevention and intervention in dangerous situations.

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Training exercise carried out at Mouscron (BE) on 20 February 2013 within the framework of project APPORT. © Massimo Di Emidio Training exercise carried out at Mouscron (BE) on 20 February 2013 within the framework of project APPORT. © Massimo Di Emidio

2004--The explosion of a gas pipe at Ghislenghien (BE) caused 24 deaths and 132 injuries amongst Belgian and French citizens. « This major accident highlighted the need for more emergency services of a higher quality. 'In such cases, it is essential to be able to deal with dozens of injuries at the same time as fighting fires,' points out Yves Van de Vloet, coordinator of the APPORT project. The project was launched in 2009 and sets out to harmonise emergency plans and warning procedures in order to optimise conditions under which action is taken in the Franco-Belgian border regions – a region where crisis management and the regulation and organisation of emergency services were not at all the same in the two regions.

Stock-taking and mapping

The project partners – the Hainaut (BE) authorities and emergency services and the Northern Security Defence Zone (FR) – have worked together methodically. Firstly they carried out a stock-taking exercise, drawing up an inventory of the collaborative measures and an analysis of the regulations on both the Belgian and French sides of the border. This review led to the publication of a study entitled 'Cross-border technological risks: prevention and accident management', which was distributed to the emergency services and the authorities. The subjects covered include, in particular, risk forecasting tools, the operational management of technological accidents and the analysis of previous disasters in order to learn lessons for the future.

In addition, cross-border technological risk assessment, and the comparative study of methods of analysis in the two countries, has facilitated the joint mapping of risks. This is a tool aimed at improving the effectiveness of emergency action.

Cross-border management

The partners then drew up a set of procedures to be harmonised: prevention, coordination between the various authorities, information provision measures and measures to protect the population. To this end a Franco-Belgian partnership of fire-fighters has been set up, entitled the Liaison and Assessment Force (Détachement de Liaison et d’Évaluation) (DLE). The DLE makes it possible to act more quickly and in a more targeted way due to the direct contact established between the operational centres in both countries.

A large-scale exercise on the ground was carried out to evaluate the performance of this cross-border strategy. An evaluation was carried out of the exercise, which was distributed in the form of operational files.

In addition, various initiatives were carried out to raise the awareness of the authorities and the community, such as the creation of an exchange forum for the operational services and specific training modules.

An experiment that could be rolled out

Project APPORT was also designed to produce structures that could serve as bench-marks for other cross-border partnerships. The data collected and files produced by the project have been distributed and are available on the project's website. 'This Franco-Belgian collaboration will lead the way for other cross-border risk management teams. It can be adapted according to the legal parameters applicable in other regions or countries,' concludes Yves Van de Vloet.

Total and EU funding

Total investment in project APPORT amounts to EUR 1 597 520 and the European Regional Development Fund’s (ERDF) contribution amounts to EUR 800 823 for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date

24/06/2015