Barents Rescue 2013

A massive and devastating rockslide was the background scenario for Barents Rescue 2013 exercise, which took place in mid-September in Troms County, Norway. The exercise was organized by the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection – DSB.

The risk for a rockslide at Nordnes Mountain in Lyngen, Troms, is a realistic one, since an unstable rock mass – sized about 22 million cubic meters – at the Nordnes is moving with a speed of approximately four to five centimeters a year. No one knows for sure when – or even if – the rock will lose its grip, but emergency and rescue plans for this undesirable event have already been well prepared and coordinated by local, regional and national actors for years. Since 2005, the regional authorities, together with the Geological Survey of Norway, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, and other regional actors, have cooperated on establishing a monitoring and warning system in order to ensure the safety and security for the population in the Lyngen area.

In a worst case scenario, the immediate result of a gigantic rock falling from a mountain into the sea would be a tsunami wave of 20-40 meters’ height. Such a wave would be washing away not only most of the village of Lyngseidet across the fiord from Nordnes Mountain, but also parts of the E6, the national road connecting northern and southern Norway. The monitoring and warning system ensures the evacuation of the nearby population in due time before an accident.

“The scenario in Lyngen should be taken seriously”, says Anders Gundersen, DSB’s Head of Scenario and Directing Staff Syndicate. “But what really matters is that the population in the area feels safe instead of scared. We believe that this year’s exercise in this area, where we have focused on the possible consequences, strengthens the feeling of safety.”

Background of the rescue cooperation

The Barents Rescue exercise has been arranged every second year since 2005 and is the largest cross-boundary emergency exercise in the Barents region. The background for these cross-border rescue cooperation’s is the Agreement between the Governments in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region on Cooperation within the field of Emergency prevention, Preparedness and Response, which has been developed between Finland, Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden. The agreement came into force in May 2012.

Approximately two thousand participants from emergency and rescue organizations in Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden were involved in Barents Rescue 2013. The exercise consisted of three scenarios:

  • An evacuation scenario of both humans and livestock, to ensure relocation from risk areas to safe areas, in accordance with local plans.
  • A tunnel fire accident, including firefighting and urban search and rescue.
  • A youth camp scenario, a sub-scenario where an international youth camp is affected by the other events, isolated from the outside world and with a variety of injuries.

The aims of Barents Rescue 2013 were to improve communication, cooperation and coordination between countries that may become involved in an emergency in the Barents region. The exercise was intended to improve preparedness and cooperational effectiveness of civil protection and joint emergency response as well as developing responder network.

“The key to organize a successful exercise is detailed planning, and to ensure that each and every stakeholder is involved in the process. The planning for Barents Rescue 2013 has been ongoing for about 18 months”, adds Anders Gundersen. “And irrespective of planning; during the exercise we have not registered a single injury on any participant!”

The next Barents Rescue will take place in Finland in 2015.




 Text by Roy Hojem / IBS




Photos by Roy Hojem.