Forest fire danger extremes in the Barents Region under climate change. For this reason, the scenario for the exercise was based on a number of forest fires occured in Norway near the border with Russia and some people could be missed in this area. Besides, the fire threatened critical infrastructure, particularly roads and power supply. Students from the five BEAR universities joined together to discuss complexities during escalating cross-border emergencies.
The purpose of the exercise Student Barents Rescue (SBR) was to familiarize the students from Nord University (Norway), Arctic University of Norway, Northern Arctic Federal University, Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Finland) and Mid Sweden University with international cooperation concerning emergency prevention, preparedness and response within the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. Mentors from the fire and rescue services and coordination centres in the four countries assisted the students in establishing an understanding of different management tasks and shared emergency resources as well as building network in the BEAR Region. The students participated in the discussion-based exercise via a hybrid approach. Mostly, students met physically in their home universities but the discussion between different countries was developed digitally. From NArFU, the student from the two master’s educational programmes “Arctic Law” and “Environmental Risk Management in the Arctic” as well as from bachelor’s programme “Technosphere Safety” joined the exercise SBR.
The Student Barents Rescue Exercise is linked to the Barents Agreement that was signed in 2008 by the governments of Finland, Norway, the Russian Federation, and Sweden. The Agreement builds a legal platform for cross border collaboration in emergency prevention, preparedness and response, and the ability to facilitate mutual assistance in emergency situations. “As the region is becoming more accessible for activities on land and sea, the risk patterns in the BEAR are changing”, - is stated on the web site of the Barents Euro-Arctic Cooperation. Therefore, joint exercises become increasingly important to ensure the safety of the people in the region.
The pilot Student Barents Rescue exercise was conducted and initiated for the first time in 2020. It started as a collaboration between UiT – the Arctic University of Norway and Nord University with participation from NArFU, with intentions for further cooperation and participation from universities in Finland and Sweden that joined the SBR in 2021.
The students agreed that the SBR exercise is relevant for learning about international cooperation in emergency preparedness and response, and they appreciated this opportunity to share their knowledge and understanding with each other. The next exercise is going to be organized in the spring 2022. The new scenario should be developed with participation of university lecturers, facilitators and mentors.