Despite the difficult times due to the Covid restrictions and activities, the missions related to rescuer curricula took place in September and October 2021. The main aim of the first mission was to find out the current situation of the rescue area training system, rescue service structure, and the capacities and expectations of the stakeholders in Albania and to exchange the experience of Estonian counterparts.
The first mission had perfect timing, as it was the first training after 30 years, and we could participate in the first-course closing ceremony. It was an honor to be part of history, and it was the best way to show the motivation and desire to improve the rescue service. Establishing a training center plays a crucial role in ensuring the quality of the rescue service by qualified personnel.
During the first missions, we visited the Ministry of the Interior, Tirana Main Fire Station, and followed the training activity in the training center. We noted that Estonians and Albanians have quite a few similarities, for example, the rescue network logic and operational management (including levels). Also, the overall qualification system is comparable (NQF Albania and EQF), giving us an everyday basis to understand each other and find the best development methods.
It was pretty clear already beforehand that every country has its best experts. Still, the role of developing experts could be to reflect on activities done so far and exchange the experience.
At the same time, there are some key issues that we need to keep in mind. We have experience in our country, and before we can evaluate the compatibility of our recommendations, we need to understand the reality and actual situation in the target country. It is also essential to understand the culture and assess the willingness of the parties to implement the development plans. So, we asked to see and meet different levels and parties to raise our situational awareness of the rescue service. For instance, we met the director-general at the ministry, the mayor of Rrëshen, and fire stations in Tirana, Fier, Vlorë, and Mirditë.
Working conditions for the firefighters are mainly below the basic level, and similarly, the equipment and vehicles are primarily acquired through donations. In this situation, it is pretty hard to develop the curricula if there is not enough equipment to use in the service. Also, the training center needs further improvement in terms of equipment and facilities to offer higher-level training and become the competence center for the fire service.
Establishing a rescue school from the very beginning to its completion is a long process and difficult to achieve without proper personnel and budget. Still, the most important thing is the motivation and desire to change the situation. We have seen a high-level commitment and willingness to make progress in the development. Several curricula have been established, and the first courses completed. It is essential to train the trainers and establish a training center with proper equipment and resources to raise the training capacity. We finished our missions by mapping the equipment needs and providing ideas for further projects to achieve the desired goals.
Text and photos: Häli Allas, Director of the Rescue College of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences, Estonia.