Climate change presents new problems for the emergency services

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The dry summer has caused a record number of wildfires. This may well become the new normal, as climate change suggests that there may be many periods of drought in the future. This will present challenges for the emergency services, who will require new equipment, knowledge and training.

Whether summer 2018, with its extreme temperatures, will retain the record for being the hottest for many years, or whether climate change will make summers such as this the new normal, is a good question.

– Our scenarios indicate that in the future, the summer months will bring more precipitation in Northern Europe and less in Southern Europe. Put another way, there won’t be a great difference in the amount of precipitation, it will just be more divided. It will also be heavier and we can expect longer periods without rain, says Mikael Scharling, a climatologist with the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

A higher level of drought requires more weeks dominated by high pressure, which keeps precipitation away. But whether periods of high and low pressure will become longer – such as the period of high pressure we have seen this year, remains to be seen.

New requirements for operational crew and equipment
With more dry periods in the future, operational crew, who have been on overtime this summer, should be prepared for this becoming a regular occurrence.

– If dry periods in summer become the norm, this will place completely new demands on both men and machinery. The summer has presented new challenges to take into account in our risk-based dimensioning, including scenario descriptions and capacity analysis. For example, we have experienced more wildfires and fires in woodland areas, says Emergency Services Manager, Søren Lundhild and goes on to say:

– In woodland, it’s often difficult to gain access with the equipment we have today, and it’s essential that we get in quickly so that a fire does not develop further. I think we have to look into the possibility of acquiring light vehicles such as ATVs with lightweight extinguishing equipment and other materiel.

Forest fires also burn into the roots of trees under the earth, so ground pins with water attached can also become necessary. The use of drones to gain a better overview of the spread of the fire in difficult terrain will also be useful for the fire manager.

– In addition, we will need to look at emergency management statistics to see how we can improve our competences to take the right decisions. We need to capitalise on the experience of outside experts in managing the threats posed by drought. And training must be combined with knowledge of national wind conditions, Lundhild says.

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