Georgia has embarked on a path of wide-ranging reforms aimed at its gradual integration with the European Union. However, currently the reform agenda does not include the crisis management system, which faces a number of challenges. They mostly stem from the lack of resources, which results in the shortage of adequate equipment (fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and fire alarms), insufficient fire protection infrastructure (emergency exits, fire escapes, and emergency exit signs) and non-existent evacuation procedures.
The project “Voluntary Fire Service as a Form of Temporary Crisis Response” aims to strengthen the ability of local communities to respond to crises. Its immediate goal is to promote rapid and adequate response in situations of fire hazard by Voluntary Fire Service members. The project continues the activities carried out in 2018 by Solidarity Fund PL in Borjomi, where the Forest Fire Prevention Group was set up. The group was established given the fact that forests make up 57 percent of the Borjomi municipality surface area. The initial idea to create a volunteer group, as a prototypical Voluntary Fire Service unit, was limited to preparing it to implement preventive measures in case of forest fires.
However, in 2019, Polish Aid and Solidarity Fund PL focused on strengthening the capabilities of the already existing volunteer group, so that it could become a professional and adequately equipped Voluntary Fire Service unit. The results of the Polish-Georgian cooperation are already visible. The local community has a better knowledge of how the Voluntary Fire Service functions. Local residents are also aware that volunteers’ rapid and adequate response to fire hazard can help crisis management system staff work more efficiently.
The project consisted of three initiatives – Voluntary Fire Service workshops titled “How to become a Voluntary Fire Service member?,” fire drills at playgrounds at 10 kindergartens and 20 schools with the participation of professional firefighters and Voluntary Fire Service members, as well as a study visit to Poland. During the visit, the Georgian volunteers learned about different activities carried out by the Voluntary Fire Service at the central, regional and local level and took part in practical exercises.
The Georgian project partners include non-governmental organisations, i.e. Centre for Biodiversity Conservation & Research (NACRES), the Samtskhe-Javakheti Media Center social and civil organisation and the Leaders of Change Foundation.