Operation Florian in Podgorica project UK

Operation Florian has successfully accomplished another first in its history as a charity. Working in partnership with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Florian was able to provide specialist training to 10 firefighters from the Podgorica Fire Service in Montenegro by bringing them to the UK. This is the first time that any firefighters from the Balkan region have been trained in the UK assisted by Florian.

In support of the development of an International training fire service training centre in Montenegro, and the already completed 2 phases of a 3 phase programme, it was essential that the Montenegrin instructors received specialist training of the highest quality.

Since the completion of the phase 2 training programme there has been a massive legislative shift in support of the Montenegrin firefighters. Two key elements of this change had a huge effect on the absolute necessity to train these new instructors. Firstly, it has now become compulsory for the fire service to attend every RTC. Prior to this these types of incidents were often dealt with by the Police or Ambulance service. The end result often increasing further injuries to the casualties due to the lack of use, of more often than not, the lack of understanding as to the capabilities of firefighters and the use hydraulic rescue equipment in exacting successful extrication. Now the fire service can utilise it skills to aid rescue attempts and potentially save more lives. The second effect is the placing of responsibility on the newly established training centre to train every fire fighter in Montenegro with these newly acquired skills in BA and RTC. This was an amazing advancement but also a tremendously ominous task to place on these instructors when they were just coming to terms with these new skills they had recently acquired themselves.

Despite the large investment of facilities in Montenegro, by the EU and the amazing development of the Montenegrins instructional skills, the environment to train them as BA and RTC instructors wasn’t suitable. This was largely attributable to the continuing construction of facilities but also the fact that the UK can still boast to have the best training facilities in the world. To provide quality training that would really open up new horizons as to what could be achieved in their own training centre it was essential to let them witness at first hand UK training facilities.

In the true sense of inter brigade working partnership Steve Darby (Lancs Fire and Rescue) and Steve Jordan (GMC Fire and Rescue) worked together to create a 2 phase training programme which would ultimately provide a UK recognised BA and RTC instructors qualification. The first phase was intended to provide all the practical elements encompassed within both courses. The core BA elements were instructed at GMC training centre and the RTC elements were instructed at Washington Hall International training centre, Lancs Fire and Rescue Service.

The practical elements of the BA course encompassed key elements of BA instruction and health and safety and involved a great deal of practical wearing such as search procedures, self protection and door entry procedures. The RTC training provided a range of extrication techniques not only utilising hydraulic rescue equipment but often using other pieces of equipment that could be just as effective in such scenarios. This area of training was essential, as there is still a tremendous limitation of equipment that is available in Montenegro.

The latter stage of the course would involve the use of the carbonaceous fire facilities at Washington Hall. The intention was to offer instruction in the real fire facilities at Washington Hall and then supervise the construction of such facilities in Podgorica. No such facilities exist anywhere else in the Balkans at present. To provide such effective and realistic training facilities would be an immense advancement for all firefighters in the region. Phase 2 of the training programme would require a return to Podgorica to deliver all the theoretical elements of both courses and make a final assessment of the instructor’s practical skills.

At the end of the course there was a pass out presentation hosted by Lancashire Fire and Rescue at Washington Hall with number of distinguished guests most prominent being Sir Graham Meldrum – HMI and Richard Morris from the MOD, Whitehall, along with principal Officers from GMC, Lancs & Lincolnshire. All were invited to observe a number of practical demonstrations of the student instructor’s newly acquired skills. The culmination of the passout was the presentation of certificates of completion of Phase 1 training and the presentation of a donation of hydraulic rescue equipment to the fire service in Montenegro. GMC Fire and Rescue service have recently made a substantial donation of fire service equipment, some of this equipment included a full set of Clan Lukas hydraulic rescue equipment and EPCO. A set of the Clan Lukas was donated to the Podgorica Fire Service. But as a surprise addition to the donations, through contacts utilized by the Lancs RTC Instructor John Mckie, Holmatro donated a brand new set of equipment to Niksic Fire Service, Montenegro’s second largest city. This was a vital donation as currently there is no RTC equipment available in this part of the country.

Both courses were a great success and there is no doubt the new skills learnt by these Montenegrin firefighters will have such a major impact towards saving lives.

It is easy to forget that within our world traveling to another country has now become something that is easily affordable and something that we take for granted. For these guys it really was a trip of a lifetime, as most of them had never even left Montenegro before in their lives. A big thanks most go to both brigades and the senior management for supporting the Operation Florian and what it is trying to achieve. Without providing the training facilities none of this would have been possible.

A special thanks has to be made to all the fire service personnel that have helped along the way. Many of which have never been involved with Florian before but took to the spirit of it straight away and this was off tremendous benefit to these firefighters. I definitely know the bug has bitten most of them and we will see them again at some point. Whenever Florian instructors have been to Montenegro in the past they have always been treated as special guests and it was great to see the hospitality returned in such a positive way. This added greatly to the whole UK experience. Another thanks must go out to the fire service personnel who have worked with Florian before and gave up their time to work with these guys again. The training programme definitely wouldn’t have gone a smoothly if it wasn’t for these individuals. But also from the social aspects the great thing of Florian is friendship within the international fire service family and this was displayed when there was a great turnout on Friday and Saturday evening by various firefighters who have previously worked in Montenegro. It was great to see old friends reunited.

A final thank you has to be extended to the Florian trustees both in their support of the project but also in their trust in allowing Steve and myself to organise the project. As the commitments and need for help increase elsewhere it has been great to continue the work in Montenegro with the full support of the trustees. The success of this phase, and hopefully the success of phase 2, will provide Florian with experienced local instructors within the Balkans that cannot only begin to facilitate the development of their own fire service but act as excellent ambassadors to what Florian can and will achieve, in other areas of the Balkans with regards to training and more importantly by providing a rebuilt, sustainable and life saving fire service.

Hvala Steve Jordan and Steve Darby