The Red Cross Voluntary Rescue Service
The voluntary rescue service is there to aid the authorities when the community needs extra help in the event of accidents or other emergencies. The Red Cross on Åland coordinates the activities, which consists of several organisations and about 90 volunteers. Olof Collin is the Red Cross Head of Crisis Management for the Voluntary Rescue Service in Åland.
“We are available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Our entire task is to support the authorities, they’re the ones who control it and we can only be called in by them,” says Olof Collin.
10,000 volunteers in Finland
In all of Finland, the Voluntary Rescue Services consist of a network of 53 organisations, 10,000 volunteers and over 1,000 alarm groups. The various groups are specialists in their own fields, and they contribute their special skills on a voluntary basis. For example, Åland Rescue Dog Club, Åland Radio Amateurs and Åland Flight Club are part of the Åland Voluntary Rescue Service.
“The authorities have a wide variety to choose from, so they can select specific groups according to what is needed. In Åland and Finland, the organisation of volunteers has really come a long way in crisis management,” says Olof Collin.
Covid-19 and ships aground
The most common operations for the Voluntary Rescue Service are to look for lost people, redirect traffic and help with evacuations. 2020 was in many ways a very different year when the pandemic hit and two passenger ship accidents also happened.
“We helped Åland Central Hospital set up their tents for corona testing in the parking lot. And when they rang us regarding Viking Amorella and also Viking Grace, we quickly came out to help. In all cases it was a fantastic cooperation with the other authorities,” says Olof Collin.
The Red Cross adds resources
Every year, the organisation carries out two major exercises and a number of training courses for members. Åland has one of only two approved places where dogs can practice searches in ruins. The entire operation is financed by Paf funds to the Red Cross, which frees up money for the Voluntary Rescue Service.
“Paf’s profits are used for training, equipment and exercises, we are incredibly grateful and depend on the Paf funds we receive,” says Olof Collin.
There is no need to be a specialist in any field in order to join the Volunteer Rescue Services.
“We add all the different strengths we have and we learn from each other; our network makes us strong. None of our volunteers are paid but they are still motivated, and I think most of us are driven by the fact that this feels meaningful,” says Olof Collin.