On 30 March 2021, the EU-funded Search and Rescue (SnR) project conveyed a webinar on “People with disabilities in Search & Rescue Operations”, gathering more than 350 participants from 40 countries in Europe and worldwide. The context was already set for this initiative as earlier this month, on 3rd March 2021, the European Commission had announced its ambitious Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030, to ensure their full participation in society, on an equal basis with others.

“It was important for us to be in line with developments at EU level. Indeed the topics of inclusiveness and equal access and non-discrimination to safety and protection are very relevant. We wanted to explore it in the context of search and rescue operations and share local and national experiences.”  Stated Marie-Christine Bonnamour, Secretary General of Public Safety Communication Europe (PSCE) and organiser of the workshop on behalf of the SnR project.

The Search and Rescue project is a large EU-funded research project composed of 28 partners from 12 European Countries aiming to improve the capabilities and safety of first responders who engage in Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations. This workshop was one in a series of open workshops to be conveyed by the SnR project throughout its lifespan (2020-2023), to stimulate discussions and raise awareness on certain key topics related to SAR.

The event featured presentations from relevant actors and institutions at EU level (Inmaculada Placencia Porrero – European Commision’s DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) to set the European Framework for the right of persons with disabilities. A presentation followed with interventions from Gianpiero Griffo (European Disability Forum) and Elisabetta Schiavone (the Observatory on safety and rescue of people with special needs) on current disability-inclusive developments and humanitarian action.

Furthermore, as a practitioner in the Italian National Fire & Rescue Service, Stefano Zanut shared his experience as a practitioner on emergency preparedness and response to people with disabilities. Caglar Agkunkor provided some insights from the project “European Disasters in Urban centres: a Culture Expert Network”, and how to assist people with disabilities in the context of disasters. Finally, Leyla Craig who is deaf, a former Australian Red Cross volunteer, and currently a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, presented on Disability Inclusion: Why this is needed in all emergency planning.

“It was a great opportunity for me to present at this workshop, even more so with such a wide attendance. This allowed us to give a voice to people with disabilities who are particularly impacted in the context of emergencies. Collaboration and tailored solutions are really key factors for improvement” stated Leyla Craig.

The next workshop will address standardisation in Search and Rescue operations and will take place at the end of 2021. For more information, please visit www. search-and-rescue.eu