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FINAL NEWSLETTER IKIC PROJECT
Spring 2022

Thank you!

The IKIC project has been an intensive, at times challenging, and an overall rewarding time during the past three and a half years. Enduring the challenges of cross-country collaboration during a pandemic, with further regional challenges like century floods in July 2021, IKIC partners contributed to a major extent in their respective roles of professionals in emergency medical services and/or firefighting, applied science and education or disaster management to ensure the public’s health and safety. Beyond the immediate and tangible results provided by the IKIC project, the partners have proven that cross-country collaboration leads to better understanding and to reduced vulnerability by joining competencies, forces and resources. With the financial support from the EMR Interreg Programme (grant EMR 77) and additional funding from the respective regional authorities and finally, from the individual IKIC partners the project contributed to reducing vulnerability and strengthening resilience in the context of public safety.

Looking back, the IKIC project has been a challenging experience with several hurdles to overcome. These were shaped by external factors, especially the pandemic, that brought an inhibition towards personal meetings and an added workload on emergency medical services aside from the IKIC project. Internal challenges within the IKIC consortium regarding content development, didactical approaches and mere organization were solved in collaboration with the major partners. Finally, the different working cultures, not only among the three participating countries covering parts of five provinces/states, but also between the more hierarchical structures within emergency services and the more open approach towards content development with the academic and educational partners created challenges, that had to be overcome. To the partners, great gratitude must be expressed for their hard work, their passion within the project and their commitment to contribute to the project’s success. The tangible achievements of this commitment can now be found on the e-learning platform of the IKIC project which will be maintained and continuously updated as part of the continuation of the IKIC project (now as the IKIC Collaboration see below) and the commitment of the partners towards the strengthening of the resilience of the EMR.

Looking ahead, the partners are eager to continue their partnership that was formed over the past three years through a new International Knowledge and Information Center on Public Safety (IKIC) Collaboration and are currently preparing the formal framework to do so. The goal is to further deepen the knowledge that has been gained within the IKIC project, to continuously update the project’s results and to integrate new topics. You will soon find information about the further procedure on our website and our social media channels.


Thank you: We want to sincerely thank all the partners. We are proud of our collaboration and dedication towards the project and are grateful for the continuous joint efforts to develop, progress and finalize the IKIC project. We are looking forward to a joint future collaboration on cross-border disaster management and thus, improving disaster resilience in the EMR. IKIC partners, as individual institutions and in various compositions and partnerships remain determined to contribute to this objective!

 

2. Challenging and catastrophic events within Europe: Importance of cross-border collaboration, disaster management and public education
 

Within this newsletter we want to draw attention once again to the importance of cross-border collaboration, such as the IKIC project, and its topicality against the background of past, current and future disasters and catastrophes: The IKIC project thus aims to improve resilience during crises in the cross-border region Euregio Meuse-Rhine (EMR) with a focus on crisis and disaster management and therefore develops educational modules for citizens, rescue personnel, and public servants. The EMR is a collaboration network from different regions in Belgium (province of Limburg, Liège as well as the German community), Germany (Aachen region) and the Netherlands (province of Limburg), who invest together in common solutions to common challenges (Paquay et al., 2021).

In recent years Europe has faced an increased risk of catastrophic events due to climate change, urbanization, environmental degradation and a changing security landscape leading to extreme weather events, nuclear and radiological incidents and the threat of terroristic and cyber-attacks (European Commission, 2020).

Cross-border collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic
After almost two years of facing the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic and attached restrictive measures, it has become more than clear that this pandemic can only be overcome with a global and collaborative approach. This is needed in all areas of prevention (e.g. social distancing, vaccination), treatment (e.g. patient transport, stationary care) and containment of the virus (e.g. isolation, travel restrictions). The pandemic has revealed the lack of preparedness and coordination among EU member countries (and beyond) when facing infectious disease - resulting in many national and regional approaches to combat a global virus (Gontariuk et al., 2021, Sommer et al., 2022). This is partly caused by heterogeneous (emergency) health systems as well as a falling back on individual national approaches and strategies to cater for their own constituencies first. IKIC research showed: “Each country, also within the EMR area, addressed the pandemic individually with national measures. Cross-border cooperation was hardly or not at all addressed at national level during political decision- or policymaking. Previous direct communication at personal level was replaced by national procedures, which made regular cross-border cooperation significantly more difficult” thus weakening the resilience of the cross-border region (Sommer et al., 2022). One lesson learned from this pandemic is that a structured legally binding way of collaboration and cross-border agreement is needed to coordinate joint action (e.g. patient transport, vaccination policies) and international crisis management strategies. The pandemic “underlines the importance of structural consultation and understanding of (crisis) organizational structures across the border. ”It is time to prepare now for future crises by drawing the right conclusions from our recent experiences.

Sources for further reading:
https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/blog/2022/01/cross-border-cooperation-during-cross-border-pandemic
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2022.841013/abstract

Extreme weather events
Furthermore, extreme weather events in the context of climate change repeatedly cause major challenges and problems:
The 6th IPCC report details four major risks of extreme weather events in the European regions: (i) Heat majorly affects mortality and morbidity of people and causes changes in the ecosystems, (ii) agriculture troubles due to drought stress on crops, (iii) water scarcity as well as (iv) floodings and sea level rises.

Source: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-ii/ 
 
Floodings
The Western European flooding in July 2021, which killed 184 people in Germany, 38 in Belgium and caused great devastation in the Netherlands, underlines once again the need for proper national and cross-border disaster management in public safety practice (Kreienkamp, 2021, Paquay et al., 2021). For that reason, Interreg Euregio Meuse-Rhine, a cross-border funding program of the European Union's structural and investment policy, just launched a call for projects on cross-border collaboration on the topic of floods this February 2022 as a response to the disaster in the past year (Interreg, 2022).
 
Wildfires
Due to climate change, Central and Northern Europe is more affected by wildfires than it was recorded ever before (EEA, 2021). A wildfire, caused by weeks of drought in combination with rising winds, at Meinweg National Park in Herkenbosch, Province Limburg in the Netherlands in April 2020, burned down around 200 hectares of forest. Hundreds of firefighters from the cross-border area in the Netherlands and Germany needed days to contain the fire (nltimes, 2020; Spiegel, 2020).
With the Tihange 2 nuclear power plant in the Walloon province of Belgium nuclear safety is integral part of public safety preparedness for the EMR region. The IKIC project provided critical information and didactical concepts not only to instruct experts and professionals, but above all, to prepare the general population for the event of a nuclear disaster. 

Sources for further reading:
https://www.dw.com/en/german-city-of-aachen-to-sue-belgian-nuclear-power-plant/a-19021423 
https://www.dw.com/en/belgium-broke-law-but-can-keep-nuclear-plants-open-eu-court-rules/a-49787150 
 
CBRN Incidents
Within the field of the so-called chemical, biological, and radio nuclear (CBRN) incidents, the Euregio is particularly at risk, because it is a driving economic force especially in the chemical field, with many factories across the border in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Possible events could include terrorist attacks targeting the industry or technical incidents.
Source for further reading: https://www.euregiolocator.eu/ 
 
The various examples of disasters and emergencies introduced above highlight the importance of cross-border joint action and solidarity. Only continued communication and collaboration between national, regional and local partners in the field can ensure the public’s safety for the region. 

Do not forget to give us your feedback and suggestions after taking the module here! It will only take 2 minutes: https://maastrichtuniversity.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cU2WeFw4vIIjshg
We thank all our partners for their work in bringing out these modules!

Thank you and future plans "IKIC Collaboration"

The IKIC Project ended on 28 February 2022, and we look forward to further improving resilience in public safety in the Euregio Meuse Rhine region. On behalf of the consortium partners, we would like to say goodbye and thank you very much for your support during the past three years. Many thanks for the professional input, suggestions, and constructive criticism to optimize the project!

We are looking forward to seeing you use our e-learning platform and are happy to share that the IKIC project is seeking to form a permanent cooperation in a new IKIC Collaboration team! We are excited to keep you posted about what is to come!

 

References

European Environment Agency. (2021). Forest fires in Europe. Online available: https://www.eea.europa.eu/ims/forest-fires-in-europe 

European Commission. 2020. Overview of natural and man-made disaster risks the European Union may face [Online]. Available: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/89fcf0fc-edb9-11eb-a71c-01aa75ed71a1  

Gontariuk M, Krafft T, Rehbock C, Townend D, Van der Auwermeulen L and Pilot E (2021). The European Union and Public Health Emergencies: Expert Opinions on the Management of the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Suggestions for Future Emergencies. Front. Public Health 9:698995. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2021.698995. Online available: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2021.698995/full

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2022). Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Online available: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-ii/ 

Kreienkamp, F. 2021. World Weather Attribution - Rapid attribution of heavy rainfall events leading to the severe flooding in Western Europe during July 2021 [Online]. Available: https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/wp-content/uploads/Scientific-report-Western-Europe-floods-2021-attribution.pdf

NLTimes. (2020). Wildfire still raging in Limburg park, town still evacuated. Online available. https://nltimes.nl/2020/04/23/wildfire-still-raging-limburg-park-town-still-evacuated

Paquay, M., Chevalier, S., Sommer, A., Ledoux, C., Gontariuk, M., Beckers, S. K., Van der Auwermeulen, L., Krafft, T. & Ghuysen, A. 2021. Disaster management training in the euregio-meuse-rhine: What can we learn from each other to improve cross-border practices? International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 56, 102134.

Sommer A, Rehbock C, Vos C, Borgs C, Chevalier S, Doreleijers S, Gontariuk M, Hennau S, Pilot E, Schröder H, Van Der Auwermeulen L, Ghuysen A, Beckers S and Krafft T (2022) Impacts and lessons learnt of the first three COVID-19 waves on cross-border collaboration in the field of emergency medical services and interhospital transports in the Euregio-Meuse-Rhine: a qualitative review of expert opinions. Original Research, Front. Public Health - Disaster and Emergency Medicine. Online available: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2022.841013/full

Spiegel. (2020). Waldbrand nahe deutscher Grenze gelöscht. Online available: https://www.spiegel.de/panorama/niederlande-braende-im-naturschutzgebiet-de-meinweg-geloescht-a-618f4a0e-3c15-4143-9a23-7b70c6d82ae2
 
Unfried, PM. (2022). Cross-border cooperation during a cross-border pandemic. Online availble: https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/blog/2022/01/cross-border-cooperation-during-cross-border-pandemic

Communications
 
IKIC's dominant media platforms are our LinkedIn and Facebook pages. Follow us and help support the promotion of our work and activities. You can also send in stories to the IKIC project. You can send in submissions to l.yaddanapudi@maastrichtuniversity.nl and s.bobel@maastrichtuniversity.nl  
 
 
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IKIC Public Safety is formed of 10 partners and is managed by the lead partner, Maastricht University. Visit our website www.ikic-publicsafety.eu for more information. 

Our mailing address is:
P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands 

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