You are about to be redirected to EU Login, our authentication service.
The UCPKN platform offers different kinds of information views based on the identification of the user, and its associated roles. If it is the first time you are logging in to the platform, your profile will be validated at the end of the process, and you will receive a label and/or associated roles on the platform based on the information provided by you.
If you are a civil protection expert active in the context of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism operations (e.g., training, exercises, deployments), make sure you are using the same email address you used for training/deployment registration for a proper creation of your profile.
As the 2023 wildfire season continues, we spoke to firefighters working on wildfire prevention and response. Paweł Gromek from Poland shares his insights into the crucial role of firefighting education and research.
By Knowledge Network – Staff member
Paweł Gromek, Officer, State Fire Service of the Republic of Poland/Associate Professor, Main School of Fire Service, Warsaw
My area of expertise in firefighting is in the organisational (systemic) aspects of firefighting and connecting firefighting to emergency management, disaster management and crisis management. In 2005–2016, I participated in firefighting rescue operations as a rescuer, dispatcher, officer in charge of the intervention action, and deputy commander of a firefighting rescue team.
Now, I’m an Officer of the State Fire Service of the Republic of Poland, and teach as an Associate Professor at the Main School of Fire Service in Warsaw. I participate in firefighting education and research (my own research, as well as for publications and projects). I am also involved (as a promoter and reviewer) in PhD processes for firefighters and other applicants in the security studies scientific discipline.
I first got involved in firefighting just after I graduated high school and passed my maturity exam (matura). I applied to be a cadet at the Main School of Fire Service in Warsaw. The first years of my firefighting journey involved academic study at the university, as well as taking part in firefighting rescue actions as a rescuer.
I was motivated by the will to help people in danger, as well as by working in a fast-paced environment that required innovative thinking and solutions.
One particularly memorable experience of working as a firefighter and rescuer is from the floods in Poland in 2010, when I witnessed the large scale of this kind of hazard, and realised the complexity of the relevant response. This instilled curiosity in me concerning non-linear disaster response, networking, and operational networks in national security. I now carry out research on multi-hazard approaches and multi-entity disaster management. This is very important nowadays, we live in a globalised world which is facing globalised threats.
Other memorable experiences I have are from participating in research and research-development projects (funded by UCPM, 7FP, H2020, Horizon Europe and Polish national agencies). Through these, I have realised that although firefighting in general is based on the same assumptions (fire is fire), the ways to do it are very complex, different, and locally-oriented. Many countries have unique firefighting solutions and modern (organisational and IT) platforms to facilitate information exchange. Also, in some countries, firefighters are more convinced about using these platforms and open to benchmarking foreign/international good practices than others.
Wildfire risk is growing year by year. This is confirmed by international reports and many research papers. Even if other kinds of disaster triggers generate more severe consequences for human life, property, and the environment (floods and earthquakes, for example), every next season of wildfires in the EU presents a serious challenge for homeland security and international security. This situation is especially accelerated by climate change.
Despite intensive adaptation for existing/forecasted/desirable climate conditions, wildfires are still a considerable hazard with potential to initiate a disaster. While it is most observed in South Europe and Western Europe, a specific line of high level wildfire risk travels further upwards (to the North and the North-East) year by year. This means that wildfires are becoming a common hazard for the entire EU.
There are challenges that we face. In many countries, widely-understood response to wildfires is based on firefighting entities and firefighting systems. For example, the National Firefighting Rescue System plays such a role in Poland. However, firefighters are not fully prepared to holistically face this hazard, which poses a pressing challenge. It is noticeable when we talk about multi-hazard approaches and situations when, for instance, a wildfire affects critical infrastructure (e.g. a petrol line or energy plant). This requires multi-entity operation and integration of firefighting entities and firefighting systems with other security-related systems (i.a. crisis management system, emergency management system, disaster management system, border security system, homeland security system).
A second pressing challenge is cross-border cooperation in times of military conflict and political pressures (see, for example, the situation at the Polish-Belarus border and the war in Ukraine). One entity is not able to cover operational expectations in such cases, so networking gains even more importance.
For me, EU civil protection and firefighting teams should keep organising common exercises and training sessions to share knowledge collected in different countries. Common standards for the use of unmanned aerial (UAVs) and ground vehicles (UGVs) are very welcome from the viewpoint of effective organisation of cross-border and international wildfire operations. As wildfire responses may require high consumption of operational resources (and not all relevant firefighters may have the chance to take part in specialised courses and training), we must collect good operational practices and share them in the form of, for example, a handbook among fire services in EU countries and the partner countries.
Wildfire exercises should also be organised in countries with limited experience of this kind of hazard. GFFFV modules and decision makers should be supported by IT solutions to effectively get the situational picture, increase situational awareness (respecting dynamism of the hazard and the risk of a cascading effect materialisation), and ensure water supply. More effective ways to use water for firefighting should be elaborated and implemented (following the advice of Professor Restas Agoston, they should consider, for instance, local ad-hoc points of water supply, as well as more effective distribution of streams of water and other extinguishing agents). These do not cover the entire spectrum of needs and solutions, for sure.
As for the Knowledge Network, it may establish a core organisational element to moderate training, information exchange and research activities and use its ‘network’ formula to connect multiple stakeholders interested in modern (technical and organisational) solutions. It could also provide works on the handbook I mentioned.
About the author
The Knowledge Network – Staff member
The Knowledge Network editorial team is here to share the news and stories of the Knowledge Network community. We'd love to hear your news, events and personal stories about your life in civil protection and disaster risk management. If you've got a story to share, please contact us.