Joint civilian-military work contains fires and floods, saving lives in the process..
By Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Times in Bitola -- 07/09/13
Civilian authorities often opt for military assistance to extinguish or contain hard to reach fires and flooded areas. [AFP]
Growing numbers of summer fires and floods have required increased military-civilian co-operation, and the efforts saved lives as well as improved preparedness, officials said.
Macedonia deployed military helicopters to help extinguish a fire in Zelenikovo near Skopje last month, after authorities determined the fire site was difficult to reach and the potential danger of the fire spreading too great.
The government's Directorate for Protection and Rescue worked in tandem with the military as well as with public companies such as the Bitola water utility and Macedonia Forests to contain the fire.
Officials said the use of the military aircraft is costly but there is a procedure in place when they can be used.
"When a mayor assesses a fire can not be extinguished with the existing forces, capabilities and resources, he can request [the aircraft] from DSZ's district office, which will then evaluate the [affected] site," Dimce Joshevski, chief of the DZS regional office in Bitola, told SETimes.
More than 430 fires burned 22,650 hectares of forest land last year, said Zarko Karadzovski, director of the public company Macedonian Forests.
"On average, 500 to 1,000 acres of forest burn in Macedonia annually. But a prompt on-site intervention can significantly reduce the damage," Karadzovski told SETimes.
Croatia's government, military and police co-operate at the National Protection and Rescue Directorate (NPRD) operations centre.
Co-operation with the armed forces is excellent as evidenced by the recent highly-successful intervention to prevent flooding with several thousand solders participating, said the organisation's director, Jadran Perinic.
"Thanks to the excellent organization and co-ordination we managed to save some areas that were declared flooded," Perinic told SETimes.
Perinic said co-operation is particularly important because of the need to reach a quick decision on which units and equipment to use.
Similarly, Serbia established the Sector for Emergency Management in 2009, an independent department within the interior ministry that integrates all civilian and military emergency services.
"We co-operate with the Serbian army since 2009. Emergency management is part of interior ministry, but the army has three purposes -- state defence, peacekeeping missions and assisting civilians when they cannot manage their capacities," Ivan Baras, assistant to the chief, told SETimes.
Civil-military co-operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is difficult because of complicated procedures and excessive bureaucracy, said Omer Neziric, chief of Jablanica municipality civil protection.
"State-provided assistance needs to be immediate. So when I call and say we need help, the army helicopters should immediately be engaged. The paperwork and administration we can solve later, when it all ends," Neziric told SETimes.
But existing civil-military co-ordination in BiH and has proved successful, according to Samir Agic, head of the BiH's sector for protection and rescue.
"We created an operational communications centre where citizens and civil authorities can report a fire or a flood. It has produced excellent results and tens of lives have been saved due to the quick reaction by the civilian and military authorities," Agic told SETimes.
Correspondents Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade, Drazen Remikovic in Sarajevo and Kruno Kartus in Zagreb contributed to this article.
What can the Balkan countries do to improve military-civilian co-operation to tackle fires and floods more efficiently? Add your thoughts below.