Responding to disasters requires efficient collaboration and a multi-skilled approach. The 2019 revision to the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) created a Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network to bring together civil protection and disaster management experts and organisations, increase knowledge and its dissemination within the UCPM, and support the Union’s ability and capacity to deal with disasters.
Currently under development, the Knowledge Network will support experts, practitioners, policy-makers, researchers, trainers and volunteers at every stage of the disaster management cycle through networking, partnerships, collaborative opportunities, and access to expertise and good practices. It will facilitate the active participation of knowledge holders and foster an inclusive approach to ensure that the Knowledge Network addresses key concerns and needs of its members. It will also connect and strengthen cooperation with existing initiatives, such as the Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre and relevant international and national structures to increase cooperation, exchange of knowledge, and further expand networking opportunities.
The disaster risk landscape is rapidly and continuously changing. This requires solid evidence, increased coordination and cooperation, better informed decision-making and more efficient and effective response. The Knowledge Network is a decisive step towards reinforcing an agile, comprehensive and sustainable EU-level disaster risk management approach under the UCPM. The Knowledge Network will be a platform for relevant national structures, centres of excellence, researchers, universities, knowledge centres, third countries and international organisations.
A wide variety of activities that will be at the core of the Knowledge Network are already ongoing and will be further enhanced to respond to changing needs. A topical training programme, a rich selection of exercises, and an exchange programme for experts will all be key to strengthen the agility and effectiveness of civil protection and disaster management, and support the UCPM and its Member States and Participating States.
Experts training and exchange
Through the Knowledge Network, the UCPM runs a dynamic and comprehensive training programme, offering experts from all over Europe opportunities to deepen knowledge of the requirements of European civil protection missions. Among others, the training helps experts improve their coordination and assessment skills in disaster response.
The training programme offers a wide range of courses from basic training to high-level sessions for future mission leaders. Specialised courses aiming to prepare for specific aspects of missions, such as security training or assessments, are also available. Ad-hoc trainings to address emerging needs such as for mass burns teams and to support on-site integration of responder teams provide professional development opportunities for experts.
The Exchange of Experts in civil protection programme allows for the secondment of civil protection experts from one UCPM Member State or Participating State to another. Experts from eligible third countries can also take part. Through exchanges on topics like firefighting, communication, search and rescue, or new and emerging threats, participants can gain practical learning experiences and knowledge on all aspects of emergency intervention and the different approaches of national systems.
Civil Protection exercises
Civil protection exercises provide valuable learning opportunities for all involved in operations under the UCPM.
The European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department funds a number of civil protection exercises every year through a call for proposals for full-scale exercises and a call for tenders for modules exercises. In order to broaden the offer, the Knowledge Network also introduces new types of exercises such as plug-in exercises for international learning and experience, and host nation support exercises.
Alongside full-scale exercises, which are organised by civil protection authorities of countries and co-financed by the EU, modules field and table-top exercises (EU MODEX) are organised under the supervision of the UCPM. They are conducted to improve preparedness and enhance collaboration among European civil protection authorities and teams.
EU MODEX exercises are opportunities for testing specific response capacities as well as the self-sufficiency, interoperability, coordination and procedures of response teams and equipment. Table-top exercises, in turn, focus on in-depth training of key personnel.
Contingency planning, decision-making procedures, provision of information to the public and the media are among common examples of what can also be tested during the exercises. Moreover, exercises can help supervisors identify further training needs for their staff involved in operations, while parallel workshops on lessons learned can serve as a forum to identify how response can be improved.
In close consultation with UCPM Member States and Participating States, the European Commission is currently working on the development of the Knowledge Network. Its set-up will ensure a comprehensive and inclusive structure and participatory decision-making, with focus on contributions and added value of expertise, knowledge, skills and good practices of all Member States and Participating States of the UCPM.