09:39, December 16, 2020

Evgeniy Zinichev: the pandemic taught everyone to work in a new format

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On December 27, Russian rescuers will celebrate their professional holiday and the 30th anniversary of the Ministry. The head of the Ministry, Evgeniy Zinichev, gave an interview to RIA Novosti about the work of the EMERCOM of Russia during this period, the main directions of its activities and development projects. Viktor Beltsov took an interview.

- The year 2020 is coming to an end. We can say surely that it was very difficult for everyone. Tell us what challenges the ministry had to face the new coronavirus infection?

- You are right, in the conditions of the spread of COVID-19, everyone had to learn to work in a new way. Emergencies and fires do not make allowances for the epidemiological situation. People in trouble need help, regardless of external circumstances, which means that our first priority was to adapt the system to efficiently work in a pandemic.

We had to switch to duplicate teams of both reacting units and the management apparatus. Some of the employees were transferred to shift and remote operation. First of all, this concerned workers at risk.

However, for the reacting units, this approach is not applicable. It is impossible to provide assistance remotely. For this purpose, a special operating mode was introduced for the fire and rescue units. If a sick person is identified, the entire guard is sent to quarantine. Thus, entire districts could remain without cover, which is unacceptable. We drew up a special duty schedule, formed a personnel reserve. In addition, in order to exclude contacts between the changing units, a special procedure for accepting the delivery of duty was developed. This is not to mention a number of preventive and restrictive measures recommended by the relevant departments.

Yes, the pandemic affected our work. Did it influence on the readiness of the Russian Emergencies Ministry to fulfill its tasks? Definitely, not.

- But at the same time, 2020 is an anniversary year for the ministry. What are the main results EMERCOM of Russia has achieved over 30 years of its activity, including in the international arena? How many different operations have been carried out, people have been rescued? What is the total amount of humanitarian aid provided and to which countries?

- I would like to dwell on this separately. The Ministry has been counting down its work since December 27, 1990, when the Russian Rescue Corps was formed by a resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. This structure was headed by Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoigu, and under his leadership, a small team of enthusiasts in their field turned into a powerful structure capable of helping people around the world.

The EMERCOM of Russia is entrusted with many tasks, but the main ones are indicated in our motto: "Prevention, Rescue, Help". Over the 30 years of the ministry's work, employees have saved more than 2.5 million lives, eliminated more than 31 thousand emergencies of various kinds, extinguished almost seven million fires, and neutralized more than 1.7 million explosive objects.

When responding to emergencies abroad, units of the Russian Emergencies Ministry carried out more than 500 humanitarian operations. Our rescuers are among the first to come to the aid of foreign countries in need of assistance. We provide assistance to foreign countries in clearing territories from explosive objects. Since 1996, more than 30 international projects have been implemented in this area. In addition, the Russian Emergencies Ministry aviation takes part in extinguishing wildfires and protecting settlements abroad.

The geography of our Ministry's activities is extremely wide. These are forest fires in the Balkans, Greece, Portugal, Israel, Chile, Armenia, Indonesia, Bolivia, and humanitarian demining in Serbia, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Nicaragua, South Ossetia, and other and humanitarian missions in Donbass, Lebanon and Nagorno-Karabakh.

- How does the Russian Emergencies Ministry interact with international organizations? What are the main results of this work and prospects for the future?

- As you have already noted, effective assistance abroad is impossible without close interaction at the sites of international organizations. This is one of the tools that allows you to coordinate the efforts of emergency ministries of different countries.

An example of this is the International Civil Defense Organization (ICDO). Our specialists take part in solving comprehensive problems of combating disasters, including monitoring, forecasting, modeling the development of emergency situations, consulting in terms of making managerial decisions in the event of an emergency. Since 2017, a Framework Agreement on Strategic Partnership has been in effect between Russia and the ICDO. In particular, the EMERCOM of Russia and the ICDO carry out information exchange regarding the creation of an international network of crisis centers. This work is attended by 17 countries and international organizations with the most advanced crisis response management systems.

Within the framework of assistance to the development of emergency services of foreign states, this year the Russian Emergencies Ministry delivered specialized equipment.

Also, work continues on the development of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center, the Russian-Armenian Center for Humanitarian Response and the Regional Russian-Cuban Center for training fire and rescue specialists. Their functioning contributes to the stabilization of the situation in the regions and the development of humanitarian cooperation.

- Over the past years, wildfires have demonstrated the problem of the unpreparedness of local authorities to fight them. Almost all large fires accompanied by strong winds inevitably lead to significant economic damage and loss of life. What needs to be done to radically change this situation? What problem areas have been identified in the current fire hazardous period?

- The topic of wildfires has acquired particular relevance over the past 10-15 years. This is due to many factors, but I will not dwell on them now. I would like to draw your attention to something else. Each problem has its own name and title. When we talk about fires deep in the taiga, where there is no man, we understand that they are caused by dry thunderstorms and other similar natural phenomena. But when forests burn in the area of responsibility of economic entities, this is a completely different story. Indeed, according to statistics, most of the wildfires occur for reasons arising from human economic activity. Untimely response to them is due to the lack of forces and means of forest users to fight fires, ownerlessness, and sometimes irresponsibility.

The EMERCOM of Russia is entrusted with the task of protecting settlements and economic facilities from fire, which can pass from the forest. Of course, within the framework of the Unified State System for the Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations, as well as the signed agreements on cooperation, we actively help Rosleskhoz (Federal Forestry Agency) and municipalities in extinguishing fires directly in the forests.

For example, this year departments of the department were involved in extinguishing wildfires in the "Utrish" State Natural Reserve, Novorossiysk, Gelendzhik and Tuapse forestries.

The main problem in organizing extinguishing forest fires is insufficient interaction between departments and authorities at various levels. Fire makes no distinction for itself, but for the reacting units it is an obstacle.

To eliminate these contradictions, the State Duma has developed and considered in the first reading a draft law that consolidates the concepts of "landscape (natural) fire" and "forest fire". Thus, the areas of responsibility are divided between the authorities in the field of extinguishing landscape fires. It also provides for unscheduled checks of settlements with the introduction of a special fire mode.

In total, since the beginning of this year, more than 86 thousand wildfires and burns of dry herbaceous vegetation have been recorded in the country, of which more than 3.5 thousand posed an immediate threat to settlements. The fire destroyed almost 500 buildings, and the most terrible is that people died.

During the fire hazardous season of 2020, the Russian Emergencies Ministry's territorial agencies formed about 4.5 thousand temporary posts with a group of up to 11 thousand specialists and more than 4.5 thousand units of equipment. They provided additional protection to almost 27 thousand settlements, preventing the passage of fire into their territory.

- What other measures are being taken by the EMERCOM of Russia to protect settlements and prevent forest fires?

- As additional and effective measures, the EMERCOM of Russia is taking measures to introduce modern information systems into the activities of the management bodies of the Unified State System of Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations, including those using data from remote sensing of the Earth. This makes it possible to monitor forest fires in real time, build models of the spread of fire, taking into account weather conditions, and promptly respond to them.

At the same time, work is underway to connect the heads of municipalities and the Unified Duty Dispatch Service of municipalities to the application "Thermal points of the EMERCOM of Russia" developed by our IT specialists. Its main purpose is to promptly inform users about fires in their area of responsibility for a timely response. By means of space monitoring, the application allows to reduce the time for bringing information about combustion sources to the Unified State System of Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations.

Currently, the application contains the heads of more than 1800 municipalities and over 2200 Unified Duty Dispatch Services of municipalities, which is 97% of the total.

- Speaking to the Federation Council in 2019, you talked about the work being done by the ministry to restore the number of specialists in supervisory units. How are things going with the number of employees now? Are there plans to further increase their numbers? If so, when and how much?

- Speaking about increasing the State Fire Supervision Service, we primarily proceed from objective socio-economic factors characteristic of certain subjects of the Russian Federation.

Since 2019, we have been steadily increasing the number of employees of the supervisory authorities of the Russian Emergencies Ministry in those regions where a difficult fire situation persists. Thanks to this approach, we strike a balance between the supervisory and reactive components.

So, at the beginning of 2018, there were only 2-3 firefighters in the combat crews leaving for fires. Now this figure has been brought to 4-5, which makes it possible to more effectively respond to emergencies and fires.

But this work is not over yet, the development of the reacting units is also carried out due to their rearmament.

- Tell us more about this. How are things going with the technical equipment of the ministry? What is the percentage of weapons of the reacting units with the latest technology? What equipment is needed first?

- Special attention is paid to rearmament issues. Without this, it is impossible to effectively and timely respond to emergencies. The availability of high-quality weapons is the safety of both our employees and the people they come to help.

EMERCOM of Russia constantly renews its fleet of fire, rescue, special and aviation equipment. This process has become more or less planned. Here, planned systematic work is necessary.

We are actively discussing the problem of rearmament and renewal of fire and rescue equipment with the State Duma, the Federation Council, the Russian government and the Security Council. Currently, certain areas have been developed that require priority attention, because the EMERCOM of Russia is not only fire engines, but also armored special equipment and much more. In addition, we have a significant aviation fleet.

At the same time, we must understand that technical re-equipment alone will not achieve anything in response to emergencies. EMERCOM of Russia is actively working on the development and implementation of forecasting and modeling technologies for the development of the situation.

The fact is that within the framework of interdepartmental interaction of all representatives of the Unified State System of Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations, large amounts of information are accumulated in the Ministry of Emergencies. At the National Crisis Management Center, this data is analyzed and used to build multi-layer digital models of the situation development. Artificial intelligence and BIG DATA technologies are widely used.

Digitization work continues. We develop something ourselves, we find something on the domestic IT-technology market.

Last year we had a successful experience in this area. Together with leading companies in the field of artificial intelligence, we held an international competition to develop solutions for the automatic classification of types of wildfires based on data received from satellites. The result exceeded the wildest expectations. The winner proposed an algorithm that works with an accuracy of better than 92%. These developments are already being effectively applied in our work. This is just about the application "Thermal points of the EMERCOM of Russia", which I mentioned.

This year another task was submitted to the competition - the development of an algorithm for short-term forecasting of water levels in the Amur River to prevent emergencies. By combining artificial intelligence with classical hydrometeorological models, we again obtained an excellent result, which we plan to effectively combine with existing solutions. These technologies will undoubtedly be used in our automated information management system.

The effectiveness of digital technologies is obvious. Thanks to their active use, in 2020, the costs of eliminating the consequences of emergency situations and compensation payments are minimized. Not a single ruble was spent from the federal budget for these purposes. Previously, these payments were stable at 6–8 billion rubles annually. Investment in prevention brings tangible budget savings.

- At a meeting on October 8, the President of Russia pointed out the need to form and approve a long-term program for updating the department's equipment until 2030. What is the reason for this decision of the head of state?

- The president's decision was formed on the basis of a deep analysis of the current state of affairs and the development strategy of the department presented by us and the interested authorities. We understand that technology that replaces outdated models should be more efficient and safe. Those tasks that were previously solved by three or four vehicles based on the ZIL-130 are now successfully solved by one or two specialized vehicles based on URAL or KamAZ.

- What is the situation with the Russian Emergencies Ministry aviation? Does the Ministry have enough aircraft fleet to solve all the assigned tasks? Will there be any purchases in the near future and which ones?

- Today the aviation of the Russian Emergencies Ministry has a significant aircraft fleet in service. We have transport planes, which are used to resolve issues of both the transfer of forces and equipment to emergency situations, and humanitarian response abroad. There are planes that are used to extinguish wildfires. But the most workhorse is helicopters of various modifications. When carrying out rescue operations, you cannot do without them.

At the same time, we have new tasks. This includes covering the Arctic territories and ensuring the security of the Northern Sea Route.

Today, together with the Russian Ministry of Finance, we are working on the purchase of new Mi-38, Mi-8 helicopters, modernization of Be-200 aircraft and the purchase of new aircraft.

Also, unmanned aerial systems are actively used in the EMERCOM of Russia system. They are used to monitor ice, flood and fire conditions. It is much cheaper than using helicopters. This year, the UAV fleet has been significantly replenished with systems based on off-road vehicles.

By 2030, the EMERCOM aviation plans to receive about 50 new aircraft and adopt about 380 modern multifunctional unmanned aircraft systems of domestic production.

- It's no secret that it is easier and cheaper to prevent a fire than to fight it. And the main role here is played by the control and supervision activities of the ministry. Earlier it was said that the Russian Emergencies Ministry intends to reach the golden mean between supervisory holidays and total control of the business. What has already been done in this direction?

- From January 2021, EMERCOM of Russia will be one of the first in the country to completely switch to a risk-based approach, assigning each facility an individual fire risk category, which will determine the frequency of inspections. Its principle is as follows: the greater the potential risks, the more frequent the checks.

There are six categories in total: extremely high, high, significant, medium, moderate, and low. Until now, risk categories have been assigned to groups of objects with identical types of activity, according to a formal criterion - purpose, number of people staying, and so on.

The fundamental difference between the new rules is that the risk category will be assigned for each object individually. Thus, if earlier all hospitals, schools, cinemas, shopping centers and so on were automatically assigned to the same risk group, now each object will have its own group, taking into account the possible negative consequences of a fire, fire condition and the conscientiousness of the owner.

The risk category can subsequently change - both increase and decrease, while the frequency of scheduled inspections will also change. For example, scheduled inspections of protected objects classified as low risk will not be carried out.

All these provisions are approved by the Russian government and come into force on January 1, 2021. Property owners will be able to independently assess the legality of classifying buildings and structures in the appropriate risk category. These calculations can be done through an online calculator on the Russian Emergencies Ministry's website, which will start working in January 2021.

All these measures are aimed at reducing the unnecessary administrative burden on bona fide owners.

- Tell us about the promising areas of development of the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

- I will list a number of areas on which we have actively worked this year and will continue to work in the future. Currently, two systems operate simultaneously in the Russian Federation - the Unified State System for the Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations (RSChS) and Civil Defense. Both systems implement almost identical tasks, as well as ways to protect the population and territories, use the same means and forces for this, but each has its own regulatory framework. In fact, the two laws intersect in the area of emergency response and public protection.

To exclude some kind of duplication, we proposed to consider the civil defense system as a mode of operation of the Unified State System for the Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations along with the existing modes of daily activities, high preparedness and emergency. The basis for its introduction may be a state of emergency or martial law throughout the country or in certain territories.

At the same time, the management, a set of measures to protect the population and territories from emergencies in any mode of operation will be assigned to the Unified State System for the Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations.

This will contribute to the responsiveness.

In addition, the Russian Emergencies Ministry has developed a draft federal law "On the Protection of the Population and Territories From Emergencies," which is now undergoing public expertise.

Another promising direction is the development of an integrated security system in the Arctic region. Today, no one needs to be convinced that the Arctic is one of the most important priorities for both the socio-economic development of Russia and its national security. The objectives of our work are, first of all, to create conditions for the safe implementation of large economic and infrastructure projects, as well as to increase the level of safety of the local residents.

Already, our rescue units are operating in the Arctic, designed to search and rescue people on water bodies, in the forest-tundra, as well as to provide various assistance in emergency situations. Since 2019, our specialists have been involved in emergency rescue operations about 3.5 thousand times, during which more than two thousand people were rescued. Active work on the development of such units continues.

So there are big plans for future.

RIA news: https://ria.ru/20201215/zinichev-1589155649.html

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