ICCROM, in cooperation with the members of the Italian National Civil Protection Service involved in protecting cultural heritage in emergency, has implemented another important initiative: the Eighth International Course on First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis (FAC19).
The course provided for the cooperation of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), ICOM-ICORP and the Italian Red Cross as well as the main Italian national actors responsible for cultural heritage safeguard during emergency management, who are playing an active role in PROCULTHER, namely the Italian Civil Protection Department – DPC, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities – MiBACT, the Italian National Fire Corps and Carabinieri.
The course, organised by ICCROM with its partners the Swedish Postcode Foundation, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, was composed of 16 experts working in the fields of cultural heritage, disaster risk reduction, urban resilience, mediation, climate variability and humanitarian aid. They came from 14 countries: Chile, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Spain, South Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States. The course took place mostly in Rome, the location of ICCROM’s headquarters. However, for 8 days, the course moved to the town of Norcia, location of a 6.6 magnitude earthquake in 2016 and victim of severe damage to heritage treasures, such as its churches. The town served as the setting for scenario-based training in risk assessment, heritage and humanitarian first aid, emergency structural stabilisation, and heritage salvage, among other themes.
Through this training program, these professionals learned how to mitigate disaster risks, prevent damage to cultural heritage in emergency, and take the necessary steps to ensure early post-crisis recovery by developing the needed capacity and resilience in communities for the protection of cultural heritage against disasters.
A delegation from the PROCULTHER management team including the DPC Cultural Heritage Working Group attended the course opening session held on 11 November 2019 at the Italian National Fire Academy. The course ended at ICCROM’s headquarters in Rome on 6 December 2019. Among the course activities, on 26-27 November 2019, the DPC Cultural Heritage Working Group took part in the full-scale exercise with ICCROM trainees. The drill simulated a flash flood in selected sites of the historic centre of Rome.
The first day of the simulation exercise gave the participants the opportunity to understand how the Italian Di.COMA.C (Command and Coordination Centre) protects cultural heritage in emergency, namely how the “Italian Safeguarding Cultural Heritage Function” operates under the responsibility of the Italian DPC and MiBACT. In the course of the exercise, the Function managed the response operations, distributed maps and delivered instructions, coordinated team leaders and supplied material. During the afternoon, the ICCROM volunteer team was deployed on the damaged sites for a first damage and risk assessment.
On 27 November, the ICCROM team began salvage and security operations, finishing the exercise with a presentation to MiBACT on the documentation related to the warehouse where evacuated objects were temporarily stored.
Finally, exercise organisers arranged a simulated press conference at the Di.COMA.C and a conclusive brainstorming involving all participants in order to exchange feedbacks and lessons learnt.
Increasing expertise and knowledge in the field of cultural heritage protection is a core issue for improving risk management capacities, arising resilience of communities at risk and contributing to economic recovery and business continuity in case of crisis. Furthermore, the course has confirmed how important it is to engage different actors with different backgrounds and skills in training activities.