NATO drill tests emergency response readiness

155.jpgTwenty-one Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) nations participated in a NATO-led exercise, IDASSA 2007, which took place last week in the coastal areas near the Croatian city of Zadar. The event provided an opportunity for the countries to test their equipment, expertise and preparedness.

Participants in the drill, which ran from May 19th to the 24th, were divided into 40 teams. They were required to demonstrate readiness to deal with dangerous, and possibly fatal, situations.

After a devastating “earthquake”, the rescue teams searched the area and found victims, helping them to safety. In a second scenario, rescuers responded to a chemical incident in Zadar’s port. The teams also had to save civilians following a biological threat on a commercial airplane.

The teams were provided with rescue dogs and modern high-tech equipment. They were briefed before they started the exercise, and had to meticulously follow all details of the scenario.

Adding to the challenge, the exercises were set in three different environments — water, air and land. Successful completion of the missions required the teams to co-ordinate efforts and work as one.

Altogether, approximately 1,000 participants, including more than 120 observers from 35 countries, took part. It was the biggest NATO exercise ever organised in Croatia.

President Stipe Mesic attended part of the drill Wednesday (May 23rd). He described the exercises as necessary, and said he was impressed with what he saw.

In real situations, it is much easier to react when you have trained personnel who are familiar with the necessary equipment, he noted.

Chief Director of the IDASSA exercise Damir Trut said that Croatia, as the host of the exercise, strived to show how prepared its teams were. Croatian authorities are willing to co-operate with other nations and take part in rescue efforts worldwide, he added.

While organising such an event was not a precondition for joining NATO, it did have the potential to boost Croatia’s profile, Trut said. Croatia is hoping to join the Alliance next year, together with Albania and Macedonia.

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