Since 2003, there has existed on Paros a small but efficient Rescue Team consisting of volunteers prepared to face almost any emergency situation on the island and in the wider area of the West Cyclades. We often hear them mentioned in fire reports as well as assisting in accidents at sea, during treacherous weather conditions, and even in situations such as the shipwreck of the Sea Diamond in Santorini last year. The port police, the fire department and the police force depend on the Rescue Team as they are always ready to assist in every dangerous situation.
The rescue team of Paros belongs to a greater organization, The Hellenic Rescue Team (Elliniki Omada Diasosis), which has 28 departments all over Greece and more than 1000 active volunteers who participate in missions all over the world. Because of their efforts assisting in the aftermath of the earthquake in Algeria, the Red Cross of Germany donated an ambulance to the central organization which has since found its way to Paros.
How it Began The idea to create this team was born right after the Samina Express shipwreck tragedy. A group of people who had assisted the rescue operations decided that the island must be on guard with a strong team that would have the knowledge, training and will to confront successfully any similar situation. The volunteers consist mainly of divers and lifeguards, a nurse and a doctor, and include generally enthusiastic
people who have been trained in first aid and other skills needed for the team.
Ready to Act in 20 Minutes In cooperation with the central organization and the authorities of Paros, the Team has repeatedly run hypothetical scenarios of emergency situations in order to test their abilities, their readiness and their organization. These tests, the timing of which is not known by the participants, have proved that the volunteers are ready to act within 20 minutes after they have been contacted.
Their wireless equipment is on 24 hours a day, giving the team contact with all the other departments in Greece and the capacity to receive SOS signals. This equipment is kept in the ambulance as sometimes it is necessary to move to the mountain of Aghious Pandes in order to have clearer communication in case of emergency. The ambulance is otherwise kept next to the home of the president, Giorgos Papadakis, where the Team’s base is situated, as they do not yet have the exclusive use of an office.
A computer programme monitors the locations of the rescue boats so they may be directed when needed. The team’s ambulance can also be used for transporting a patient (in the presence of a doctor, of course) as it has the necessary medical equipment and medicine provided to the Team by the Health Centre. However, the ambulance is used primarily as an operations centre and for transportation of the volunteers.
In 2005, the Team was given a speed boat by the South Aegean Precinct. The boat is fully equipped and ready at a moment’s notice in the port of Naoussa.
We would need quite a few pages to write down all the Team’s activites in the past five years. The point is, whether it is a fire or an accident at sea, they have proven their abilities time and time again. The Rescue Team comprises 50 members, 10-15 of whom are present in most situations or on stand-by. These are people giving their time, even risking their lives, to help in this cause.
When the Team was first founded, it was sponsored with 15,000€ by the Municipality. Since then it has been funded with 5,000€ annually by the Cycladic Nomarchy which covers equipment costs. Niki Gibson-Hosking and Katrina Wallace, two English survivors from the Samina Express, have raised and donated money for the Team during its first years of operation. However, not much is left and the Team is now in need of money to cover the costs of operations: petrol, training, suits, etc. With the help of a few sponsors they have organized a lottery that will be drawn on 29/6. The winner will win a boat and trailer worth 4,000€.
Even if this handful of volunteers keep a low profile and are satisfied just knowing that they were able to help save a life or stop a fire, we should recognize and remember them, not only when we might need them. Just by becoming a member of the Team, we can help by offering a small contribution to this activity which concerns each and every one of us.
Contact info: 22840-53159, 697-8516920, 694-8072063
President – Giorgos Papadakis
Secretary – Sofia Aggelopoulou
Treasurer – Stelios Kaleles
Markos Kovaios, Dimitris Meremetis, Nikoletta Malamateniou, Marousso Kontaratou, Manolis Malamatenios Panagiotis Simitzis and Michel Ponchele