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 deployment to a disaster zone at short notice. 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 2018, 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.
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 meet a common high standard. Certification help to ensure that national capacities are of high quality and comply with international standards. The European Commission, with the support of experts 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.
Since its creation in 2014, 23 participating states have offered 98 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:
Following forest fires in Sweden in July 2018, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) coordinated the deployment of seven planes, six helicopters, 67 vehicles and over 360 personnel from Italy, France, Germany, Lithuania, Denmark, Portugal, and Poland. Resources from the voluntary pool were deployed. In addition, the Commission co-funded transportation costs to the sum of €1.15 million and the Copernicus programme produced close to 40 satellite maps.
In 2017 the European Medical Corps was deployed in response to the yellow fever outbreak in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Marburg fever outbreak in Uganda. The Medical Corps was created in response to the shortfall of medical staff during the Ebola outbreak in western Africa. Following the 2018 outbreak of Ebola in the DRC, the European Commission is supporting national authorities and international partners to contain the spread of the disease. Logistical support has been provided by the Commission's humanitarian air service called ECHO Flight, and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated at the request of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the deployment of medical personnel and equipment.
Shortly after hurricane Matthew made landfall, Haiti activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to ask 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 non-governmental organisations (NGOs).