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Nordic preparedness put to the test

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

Rarely has the scout motto been more apt than right now. When the leader says “Be prepared!” the scouts answer “Always prepared!”

But are we really? Have we and the authorities prepared for all eventualities? Nearly 600 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, emergency shelters are being reviewed and Nordic governments are setting aside money to renovate them.  

It could have been worse: In 2010, it was close that nearly all emergency rooms in Sweden were shut down, says Anders Johannesson at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency MSB. 

As a start, 220 million Swedish kronor (€18.64m) has been earmarked for emergency shelters and the expansion of the rescue services in Sweden. But how much money is needed to make sure there are enough shelters for everyone? 

After a wet and stormy summer, and thousands of people evacuated in Norway during extreme weather “Hans” between 7 and 9 August, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise NHO wants to see more work being done on preparedness. The insurance industry is working full tilt and construction workers are fixing damaged bridges and roads. Damages have been estimated to be nearly two billion Norwegian kroner (€15.6m).

Luckily no lives were lost and those who needed evacuating got to safety. When the roads are blocked, helicopters are being put to work. But there are limits to both the number of helicopters and pilots available – especially those who can carry out search and rescue jobs. 

Europe’s largest school for the training of helicopter pilots is in Sandefjord in Norway. According to the school’s business manager, Anette Kruhaug Haldorsen, the authorities need to improve conditions for those who want to pass their pilot’s license. Today, students must pay for the training themselves, and it costs more than one million kroner. This limits the number of applicants.  

According to her, there is a large recruitment backlog. And it takes many years for new pilots to gather the necessary experience and further training needed to carry out search and rescue tasks.

There is an acute shortage of bus drivers too. Sweden’s bus operators believe another 8,100 bus drivers are needed to staff existing public transport routes and longer bus routes. 

The Covid-19 pandemic led to many bus drivers retiring, while the average age of the remaining ones is high. The buses play an important role when for instance railway services are hit by stoppages. 

In certain areas, new technology like drones and mini-submarines have increased the capacity for surveillance as well as search and rescue. We report from the Norwegian Coast Guard vessel KV Heimdal. What used to be time-consuming controls to see whether a vessel uses diesel and not the far more polluting heavy oil fuel, can now be done by flying drones through a vessel’s exhaust. 

Researchers say we must expect more wet and wild weather in the future, especially if we miss the climate goals. 

Carbon capture and storage, CCS, is a crucial tool to meet climate targets on all levels: Globally with the Paris Agreement, closer to home with the EU targets and it is completely in step with Denmark’s 2030 goals, writes the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities in a new report. 38 billion Danish kroner (€5.93bn) has been set aside for three CCS projects.

These are measures that could bring many new and green jobs. Interestingly, it is agricultural Denmark that also sees the opportunity to store enormous amounts of CO2. It is possible to use CO2 in food production. 

What people consider to be existential issues varies depending on their point of view.  In Finland, trade unions are warning that the new centre-right four-party coalition government wants to make changes to labour legislation, including introducing fines both for unions and individual members if they carry out sympathy action during a strike when these are not considered “reasonable in light of their objectives”. 

Denmark’s largest trade union confederation, FH, has a new leader in Morten Skov Christiansen, which marks the end of a turbulent period. The former leader, Lizette Risgaard, stepped down at the end of April after having been accused of improper behaviour.

We also have a portrait of Info Norden which turns 25 this year. The organisation provides answers to citizens who move to or work in a different Nordic country. 

Finally, there is a new Nordic report with four proposals for how to make it easier for cross-border workers to work from home.



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