Spain and Portugal coordinate cross-border emergency response efforts

When the cross-border region of Spain and Portugal faces a flood, forest fire, missing person or other emergency situation, emergency services from the Galicia, Castilla y León and Norte regions can now respond in a coordinated and efficient manner.

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Emergency services from regions in Spain and Portugal cooperate in training exercises as part of the ARIEM 112 project.   © ARIEM 112 Emergency services from regions in Spain and Portugal cooperate in training exercises as part of the ARIEM 112 project. © ARIEM 112

" The project created a centralised space for the management of emergencies where everyone helps everyone. This in turn contributed to the promotion of a culture of solidarity and interregional cooperation and, consequently, reduced the negative effects of borders as administrative, legal and physical barriers. "

Maria Josè Bùrdalo Prieto, Managing Authority

Although emergencies know no borders, emergency management services (EMS) do. When an emergency strikes a cross-border region, a coordinated response from all sides can be easily impeded by different administrative procedures, national regulations and language barriers — and EU citizen suffer as a result.

To ensure that the citizens of Spain’s Galicia and Castilla y León regions and Portugal’s Norte region benefit from an optimal level of emergency services, the ARIEM-112 project introduced a centralised framework to facilitate collaboration between each region’s emergency response teams.

Overcoming barriers

Before ARIEM-112, when a forest fire or flood hit a cross-border area, an EMS team from Galicia could only provide emergency services up to its border, where on the other side Portuguese first responders would be working in accordance with their own protocol. Although the wildfire was clearly indifferent to national borders, the people on the ground were very much restricted by them. Now, with ARIEM-112, there is an established framework for coordinating cooperation between the three regional EMS programmes. The result is a more efficient use of existing resources, quicker response times and more lives saved.

The cross-border emergency framework is comprised of several components, including joint action protocols, new technologies, coordinated training and drills and shared resources. For example, the project’s Remote Manager computer application provides all participating emergency responders with coordinated information, including GIS-based mapping, in real-time. To prepare the teams for a joint emergency response, the project brought personnel from all three regions together for several training sessions and drills.

Shared resources for a more effective service

The project has also taken great strides in helping the three regions pool their resources in order to avoid duplication or redundancies. For example, the three EMS teams purchased two shared drone units that have proved instrumental in controlling natural disasters, preventing fires and finding missing persons.

In addition to the drones, an array of other emergency tools and equipment have been jointly purchased, including: a video conferencing system, 380 Tetra terminals, mass faxing broadcast alert system, geolocation application, a semi-trailer tractor, three tankers, 1 465 clamp fire hoses, 13 300 smoke detectors, five emergency release fire systems, four thermal cameras, two boats, two pick-ups and trailers and 110 autonomous breathing systems.

But the project is about much more than simply purchasing equipment – it’s also putting it to use. Since its launch, the project has successfully coordinated a joint response to several cross-border emergencies, including to an industrial fire, a fisherman lost at sea and a forest fire – to name only a few. As these situations clearly confirm, the ARIEM 112 project has achieved its objective of responding to cross-border emergencies with a quick, effective and coordinated effort.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “ARIEM 112. Cross-border Mutual Assistance in Emergency Matters” is EUR 2 803 715, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 2 102 786 through the “Spain-Portugal” Cross-border Cooperation Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date