Interview with the Minister for Emergency Situations of the Republic of Belarus

The International Civil Defence Organization (ICDO) together with the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Azerbaijan held the International Conference on “Civil Defence and Preparation of Civil Societies for Disaster Risk Prevention” in the period from March 12 to 13, 2013 in Gabala (Republic of Azerbaijan). We had the opportunity to meet with the Minister for Emergency Situations of the Republic of Belarus Mr. Vladimir Vashchenko at the conference.
Q: Why did you decide to participate in this conference?
The Ministry for Emergency Situations of the Republic of Belarus is not a member of the ICDO, however we have a lot of things in common. I am grateful to the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Azerbaijan for the invitation to participate in this conference. We all share common interests and concerns – to make the lives of our citizens safer.
Many participants noted in their speeches that only together we could resist the man-made and natural disasters.
Q: What are the main issues you consider?
The question is too wide and cannot be answered in a short interview format. The list of threats is very large and rescue services must be prepared for them: I mean both trained professionals and equipment for emergency situations. Thanks to this conference we had an opportunity to share experiences, training programs, new technologies and other means with our colleagues from different countries. We discussed the issues of prevention, legal regulation and education of the population. Here at the conference we can meet our colleagues and friends. It is very important for our work because we have to constantly communicate and learn new things from each other.
Q: What are the main problems faced by your country?
If we talk about natural emergencies – these are forest fires and floods. Our country is on a flat area with a lot of forests, rivers and lakes. We have developed an efficient system of ground, air and space monitoring. Thus we are prepared to promptly equip a team of professionals in case of such situations.
Q: Do you carry out any training programs?
We have two higher education institutions as well as the Institute for Retraining and Professional Development, and the regional training centers as well. By the way foreigners can obtain a college degree and pass any courses as well. Every year we enroll hundreds of students from other countries.
Q: If we think about joining the MES of Belarus to the ICDO, what opportunities do you think you could obtain thanks to this organization?
First of all thanks to the ICDO we have the opportunity to meet with representatives of other countries, as well as participate in training courses. Recently we organized a joint training course with ICDO in our Institute for Retraining and Professional Development. We will be developing this cooperation further as well.
Q: Do you think that population is not properly aware of the civil defense?
Education of the population is ongoing but there are issues that need to be emphasized. And this conference is intended in particular to solve them and improve the efficiency of training.
Q: It was announced today that the main way to prevent emergencies is to inform the population. How do you perform that? Do you have any programs to inform the population, or you take this measure only in case of an emergency situation?
A system for informing population is created in the Republic of Belarus. The system covers all social groups and all ages. Training classes are held in kindergartens, schools, universities and enterprises. For people in rural areas we do the so-called « rural meetings « , cooperate with the media actively and work in social networks. The result – a steady decrease in the number of man-made emergencies and decrease in the number of deaths and injuries. We train people how to behave in case of emergencies, how to act when it comes to man-made disasters. In addition a huge emphasis is placed on prevention of emergency situations. And of course we also provide information during rescue measures through the MES website and media.