Civil Society and Local Authorities > Occupied Palestinian Territory

“I have learned to tame fire”
n Fire extinguishing course

www.enpi-info.eu They have learned to deal with fire extinguishing and first aid, earthquake evacuations and drowning accidents: Over 11,000 Palestinian students from 577 schools have attended an EU-supported Civil Protection Training programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In cases of emergency, the children will now serve as first reaction units – ahead of the arrival of Civil Defence personnel – or backup assistants. But besides acquiring functional skills, the trainees have practised a new ability: self-confidence.
Text and pictures by: Elias Zananiri JERUSALEM - Amjad Kanaan, a captain in the Palestinian Fire Brigade, makes no effort to hide the broad smile on his face. Satisfied with the kind of training he has been engaged in, he speaks of the trainees with whom he has spent two months: “These school students are our future. I look at them and I see a new generation emerging.”

A back-up force once disaster strikes
The training programme for the recruitment of young Civil Defence volunteers in the oPt, financed under the EU's PPRD South programme (www.euromedcp.eu), has targeted 10,000 Palestinian students between 13 and 17 years old in the West Bank. This age criteria was chosen because these children show more interest in This publication does not represent the civil defence activities than other segments of society and, according to official statistics, they represent official view of the EC the highest percentage of the Palestinian population. The programme ended up training exactly 11,778 or the EU institutions. students, well above the expectations of organisers and trainers. The EC accepts no Those students, boys and girls alike, came from 577 schools in the ENPI Info Centre – Feature no. 58 responsibility or liability whatsoever occupied Palestinian Territory. All students who attended the train- This is a series of features on projects funded by the EU’s with regard to its ing programme had their personal details saved in the Civil Defence Regional Programme, prepared by content. headquarters database: the training courses are designed to trans- journalists and photographers on form them into a back up force to the Civil Protection. The course the ground or the ENPI Info Centre. ENPI Info Centre/EU 2011© deals with civil defence, first aid and rescue, fire extinguishing, road

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“At first, I felt so scared. But seeing my friends joining gave me courage and I decided to go ahead. Now, I feel I am fully capable of providing help to people in need”

accidents, water rescue, floods and drowning accidents, earthquakes and evacuation. In cases of emergency, the students will immediately be alerted to serve either as first reaction units – ahead of the arrival of official civil defence personnel – or as backup assistants. Mohammad Abiyat is a 15-year-old student at the Bethlehem Secondary Boys School. Very impressed by the training he has received along with a group of boys from his school, he says he feels well equipped to handle certain crisis situations. Since the training, he has given cardiopulmonary resuscitation to an old man who fainted in the street. And when the smell of cooking-gas spread in a building where he happened to be, he immediately asked people to open all windows and to call for help. "I am proud of myself," said Mohammad, "I feel I have saved a few lives." A civil defence drill took place at Mohammad's school, without any early warning. The minute sirens went off, members of the emergency committee turned off the power and shut all water and gas pipes. It was a fascinating scene to see the 584 students rushing out of their classrooms and queuing in the main yard in just 25 seconds. No injuries. No stampede, and no delays.

n Palestinian girls attending a training class in Bethlehem district

n A team of trainers from the Civil

Protection Department

“I feel I’m a different person now”
In Qalqilya in the northern part of the West Bank, Taghrid Hassan, 17, says she never expected to have the courage to enroll in such a course. “At first, I felt so scared. But seeing my friends joining gave me courage and I decided to go ahead. Now, I feel I am fully capable of providing help to people in need,” says Taghrid. She adds that the programme had an extra impact on her. “I feel I’m a different person now, with a new personality, perhaps a tougher one. And I like it.” When asked what she means by tougher, the answer is: “I don’t feel I’m the little shy and weak girl of the neighbourhood any more.” In addition to training youths, Public Protection units of the Palestinian Authority do their best to raise public awareness of the need to maintain minimal compliance with public safety rules. The concept of awareness raising is based on informing the public about what to do when the time comes that a disaster strikes. Leila is 17, she comes from the village of Wadi Fukin on the western outskirts of Bethlehem. She says the first training day was very frightening. "I listened to the trainer as he spoke of fighting fire and I got scared. I have a fire phobia. I thought to quit. But then I said to myself it could be my best chance to dump this fear." Now Leila easily uses a fire extinguisher. The day a fire-fighting course took place at her school, she took the extinguisher with her tiny hands and dashed towards the burning tyre in seconds. It took her a few seconds more, and the fire was off.

“I’m a different person now, I don’t feel I’m the little shy and weak girl of the neighborhood anymore”

“I listened to the trainer as he spoke of fighting fire and I got scared. I have a fire phobia. I thought to quit. But then I said to myself it could be my best chance to dump this fear”.

Not enough fire extinguishers
This is what the course is (also) about. It helps people to cross the threshold of fear and to step into a different world of communal integration, mostly at a time of crisis when people feel they are in need of each other. In this sense, the course brings Palestinian students and their families closer to the Civil Defence culture, which increases their capacity to face

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n Evacuation drill

at a school in the West Bank

disasters. Notwithstanding all this accomplishment, those in charge of the training still believe they could have done better, had they been furnished with all the training equipment they needed. While training students how to extinguish fires, the Civil Protection had insufficient fire extinguishers. They had to collect some 100 pieces as donations from the local private sector. Other training tools such as projectors, flip charts, and stationery were also donated by the private sector. True, these donations unveiled the reality that the Civil Protection Department was not fully equipped. But it also illustrates how close the partnership is between the Civil Protection Authority and the private sector. At the end of the day, it is Palestinian society at large that benefits from this activity. “We hope to continue this programme,” says Lt. Colonel Mohammad Beiruti in his Ramallah office at the Civil Protection Department headquarters. “True, we had financial problems and equipment shortages, but we are resolute in our decision to go ahead with such activities in the future,” he says, expressing the hope that the EU would continue its engagement and extend the support that has already been provided.

PPRD Civil Protection South
http://www.euromedcp.eu/en.html
Programme for Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters
Participating countries Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Turkey. Libya and Mauritania are observer countries. Timeframe 2009-2011 Budget €5 million Aims The “Programme for Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters” (PPRD South) contributes to the improvement of the civil protection capacities of Mediterranean partner countries at international, national and local levels. Building on the achievements of two previous programmes it contributes to the development of a civil protection culture based on prevention rather than response. It works with the Civil Protection Authorities of the participating countries and is managed by a consortium consisting of the Civil Protection Authorities of Italy, France, Egypt and Algeria as well as the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR). Find out more Project fiche – country page > http://www.euromedcp.eu/en/countries/occupied-palestinian-territories.html ENPI Info Centre project fiche > http://www.enpi-info.eu/mainmed.php?id=245&id_type=10 Thematic Portal “Civil Society and Local Authorities” > http://www.enpi-info.eu/thememed.php?subject=14

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