Preparing for crisis with response actors, businesses and academics

A new collaboration works to increase the emergency preparedness and security in the northern part of Norway.

  • By CHNL

Emergencies can have extensive political, economic, social and public health impacts. Many crises have long-term consequences, especially if neglected or poorly managed. Therefore, preparing for and responding effectively to emergencies and crisis are among the most pressing challenges facing both the response actors, the health sector, governments, businesses owners, and the public.

The purpose of the project “Beredskapslaboratorium Finnmark” is to offer custom made competence packages, and to serve as a place for competence development and networking within response actors in Finnmark, the northernmost region of Norway. The project is funded by Troms and Finnmark county and Sør-Varanger Development.

This project strives for multiple results. First and foremost to see an increased competence in management, security and preparedness among the target groups. After systematic identification of the response organizations resources, the project group wish to arrange several dialogue meetings, exercises and seminars across sectors to increase the organizations knowledge of each other. As a result from the activity, multiple tailor-made pilot courses are planned to be enrolled by the Nord university. The goal is to make sure the competence needs of the emergency response personnel in the region is met.

The annual joint exercise in Bodø, Øvelse Nord. // Kent Even Grundstad
The choice of Finnmark region

Following the terror attack in 2011, the Norwegian emergency preparedness system has drastically changed. There is an increased focus on regional and local risk assessment, and individual implementation of measures based on these. New challenges related to climate change, migration, organized crime and cybercrime as well as hybrid threats make the High North vulnerable.

Finnmark is characterized by a harsh climate, and limited access to physical resources in the event of a crisis. Due to a relatively low population and vast distances there is a need for education, training on cross-sector and also cross border cooperation within emergency response. By adding the capacities of a university to this equation the project strives to facilitate learning based both on research and regional best practice.

Challenges emerging due to climate, location and surrounding activities require custom made expertise. Therefore the project focuses on the existing challenges Finnmark is facing and how to strengthen the contingency-adapted emergency preparedness. Much expertise is already present in the region, and will be used for knowledge exchange between agencies. Other regions may also learn from the experiences of the crises responders in Finnmark. Within the project knowledge gaps are mapped among the target groups. These analyses, based among others on dialogue meetings, serve as a platform for developing specialized classes within the security and emergency preparedness field. In addition, innovation related to finding good solutions in spite of scarce resources is in focus. We will also try this model of working across the borders. Lapland county in Finland might be the first step in this direction.

Project leader, Odd Jarl Borch, during a simulation of a sea rescue. /NORDLAB
Cooperation between multiple partners

The project is led by NORDLAB at Nord university and coordinated together with CHNL. NORDLAB is the  Nord University`s emergency management laboratory. NORDLAB is providing custom made courses based on advanced simulator technology, doing R&D within emergency management, as well as testing decision making support systems for emergency response. Their expertise within command, communication and control systems, as well as leadership support tools used within civilian and military crisis management is invaluable for the project’s relevance to professional emergency- and crisis management personnel.

A reference group and steering group is linked up to the project. They include members from the police, the fire departments, business organizations, the county municipality, the Regional council of Eastern-Finnmark, Kirkenes Næringshage, The Norwegian Armed Forces, the county governor’s office, The Troms-Finnmark county administration, Nordkapp Maritime Vocational School, Sør-Varanger Development and the Coastal Administration at VTS Vardø.

Podcast about crisis management and security.

Listen to it here

What has been done?

The project is divided in three phases:

  1. Develop a regional competence platform for courses, exercises and R&D based on existing resources.
  2. Identify competence needs within selected theme areas and target groups
  3. Establish competence packages aimed at selected target groups with the use of regional and external professional resources.

So far the project group has held several meetings with relevant institutions, companies and emergency response actors. After careful assessment of the needs within selected themes and target groups new university courses are being developed.

The first target group was picked among the industries severely affected by the corona virus. The first target group therefore became the tourist industry in Finnmark. Several meetings with different companies in the spring resulted in a pilot course named Innovative Crisis Management for small and middle-sized companies. After positive feedback it was decided to implement it as a permanent course at the university with members from all of Norway. This fall new students have been enrolled.

Parallel to the ongoing new course information gathered from a new target group is being analyzed. This time the choice fell on those responsible for local emergency preparedness. Meetings with Finnmark police district, the Garrison of Sør-Varanger (Garnisonen Sør-Varanger), the municipality and the fire department in Sør-Varanger was arranged. More meetings for identifying needs are yet to be held. However, the development of a new pilot course custom made for this target group is in progress.

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