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Integration and support in operational skills improvement in Mountain Rescue Services in Mestia – region Svanetia

Svaneti is a mountainous region. The Svaneti Mountains located there have many tourist trails. Only some of these trails are described and marked. Each year, Svaneti is attracting more tourists. The regional potential of winter tourism is also expanding.

Along with the growth of tourist traffic, there is a rising rate of accidents involving tourists. Often, tourists arrive to the Svaneti Mountains completely unprepared, not knowing the trails and without the needed equipment or experience. In the winter season, the layers of snow are several metres deep, constituting a serious avalanche threat. The rescue services in Mestia respond in cases of threats, incidents or disasters in the region. There are also mountain guides operating in the market who are ready to become involved as volunteers, occasionally assisting rescuers in their free time. This is a potential group for building a volunteer rescue service. However, the rescuers have inadequate equipment and are not trained sufficiently. They are not taught to work as a team and are familiar only with using force instead of methodological and technical methods. Their navigation abilities are poor and they have problems building basic assistance systems and are not taught to work with belaying.

The direct project beneficiary was the local administration of the Svaneti region (of Mestia) and the rescue services subordinate to the public administration.

Integration and support in operational skills improvement in Mountain Rescue Services in Mestia – region Svanetia

Actions were carried out in the Svaneti region in Georgia; theoretical training and part of the practical training were held in the town of Mestia, and the second part of the practical training was held in the field.

The main purpose of the project was to support the administration of the Svaneti region in responding to crisis situations and to improve the operational capacity of rescue services due to the absence of mountain rescue structures in the region and in the country, the absence of high-altitude and medical training of rescue personnel, and the lack of basic mountain rescue equipment.

The aim of the project was achieved through the following:

  1. Analysis of the current status of rescue services in Svaneti.
  2. Theoretical and practical training of rescue service personnel to improve and standardise their operational capacity; training to help form a voluntary rescue group.
  3. Assistance in supplementing the equipment of individual rescue services.
  4. Workshops on preparing response plans in crisis situations; exchange of experience in crisis response and management; operation of a voluntary mountain rescue system.

The project contributed to implementation of the Regional development and building capacity of public and local-government administration priority. The implementing entity was the ICAD Foundation and the local partners were the administration of the town of Mestia and the Svaneti Tourist Centre NGO.

Integration and support in operational skills improvement in Mountain Rescue Services in Mestia – region Svanetia

The following was carried out:

  1. Theoretical and practical training of individual rescue service personnel.
  2. Assistance in supplementing equipment of individual rescue services.
  3. Preparation of models of crisis response and operation of the Voluntary Mountain Rescue Service for rescue services in the Svaneti region.
  4. Creation of the beginnings of the Voluntary Mountain Rescue Service.

In the course of the project, the following was subject to verification: the principles of operation of local rescue services, available equipment and the skill levels of personnel. The full picture of mountain rescue services in the region was described in the prepared report.

Thanks to measures taken, the skills and operational capacity of the personnel of these rescue units were improved through practical and theoretical training. The basic equipment of individual units was also supplemented.

The beginnings of the Voluntary Mountain Rescue Service in Mestia were also formed, officially becoming an organisation on the initiative of its members (www.safemountaingeo.org).

A photography exhibition informed about the work of mountain rescuers.