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As part of Operation Florian’s continued commitment and support to the capacity building of the Macedonian Fire Service and the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, success was achieved by delivering specialist firefighting and rescue training to 30 Macedonian firefighters in the UK in November 2012.

The MK2UK training programme delivered in partnership with Avon FRS, Gloucestershire FRS and Severn Park Fire and Rescue Training Centre, occurred over a two week period in November 2012 and was based at the Severn Park training facility in Avonmouth, near Bristol. Firefighters involved in the training represented the Municipalities of Sveti Nikole, Veles, Tetovo, Kriva Palanka, Stip, Bitola and Strumica.

The training course consists of two elements and designed with two clear objectives; firstly to provide specialist instructor training for breathing apparatus and road traffic collision and secondly to train firefighters in Urban Search and Rescue techniques. All of the areas covered within the UK have purely focused on the practical skills and requirements associated with each specialist discipline.

The purpose of the first element was to build upon the base of skills already established in previous years by the project team and enable Macedonian firefighters to begin to deliver specialist training to other firefighters in their own country.

The opportunity to invite firefighters to the UK has been vital owing to the fact that at present no such training facilities or resources exist in Macedonia. The training has not only enabled greater skill enhancement and understanding of the specialisms required for instructing in these areas. But also it has provided real opportunities to develop understanding of what training facilities exist and how these could be developed within Macedonia.

The second element of the training has been of equal importance. Despite Macedonia being situated within an area of high seismic activity there currently is no provision or capacity for specialist USAR rescue teams. The fire service can contribute significantly to supporting preparedness and rescue capabilities. Additionally, as Macedonia is one of the key members of the SEE DPPI (South East Europe Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative) if adequately supported the new USAR trained technicians could become a regional resilience force and aid neighbouring in times of disasters.

It is anticipated that further training will be delivered in May 2013, as part of the intended main project objectives, to follow on with all the theoretical elements of each specialist skills and to carry out assessments of instructional skills.

A special thanks must be noted to all who have made this possible and successful. These include Rob Davis and Neil Liddington (Avon FRS), the British Embassy in Skopje, ZELS Fire Services Network, Operation Florian project team and instructors.