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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

Volume 4
Issue 2

Posted by Rhys Jones on 14th September 2014 at 11:00am

The Theme of communication is important in this issue, especially reaching vulnerable groups – the elderly, young or persons with disabilities.

It is staggering that 17 years after the 112 single European emergency number was introduced, two thirds of European citizens are still unaware of its existence. Kathy Sinott, MEP, wonders how many have died across Europe through not knowing how to call for help (p73).

And even if the rescue services are in attendance, those not usually classed as being vulnerable can become so when abroad. Unaccustomed practises, unfamiliar surroundings and the added barrier of language mean that most people are potentially at risk.

Which brings us to the item on page 6, reporting nine deaths in a building fire in Germany. This incident bears a startling similarity to a blaze in Berlin in 2005, when eight people, including several children, were killed. In both cases the victims were from different ethnic groups and lived in houses of multiple occupation. In the Berlin incident, those involved could not remember the emergency number and when the emergency services did arrive, firefighters found it difficult to communicate with them.

German Fire Services have since been very proactive in reaching out and educating at risk groups, so it seems unlikely that communication barriers played a role in these latest deaths.

But this new tragedy certainly underlines how vital it is for more people to be aware of what number to call in an emergency, and how important it is for them to understand the emergency operator and rescue services. The odds against survival in such incidents are already stacked too high.

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