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Ministry for Extraordinary Situations [EMERCOM]

The Ministry of Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM of Russia -- also called the Ministry for Extraordinary Situations or MCHS) was established on January 10, 1994, according to the President of Russia's Ordnance. EMERCOM grew out of the Russian Rescue Corps, which was established in December 1990 with the purpose to provide swift and effective response in the event of emergencies. The Rescue Corps was transformed into the Emergency and Civil Defense State Committee in 1991, and General of the Army Sergey Shoigu was appointed head of the committee.

When the Soviet Union broke apart, the complete Civil Defense apparatus was transferred to EMERCOM except for the underground bunker system of command and control, which the Ministry of Defense kept for its own use. EMERCOM's missions correspond closely to the missions of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and many of the disaster relief/assistance missions of the US National Guard.

EMERCOM has 6 regional centers, which include The Volga-Ural Regional Center, the Siberian Regional Center, the Central Regional Center, the Northwestern Regional Center, the Southern Regional Center, and the Far Eastern Regional Center. EMERCOM is subdivided into several departments. These include the Department for Protection of the Population and Territories; the Department for Disaster Prevention; the Department of Forces; the Department for International Cooperation; the Department for the Elimination of Consequences of Radiological and other Disasters; the Department for Science and Technology; and the Management Department.

EMERCOM's Crisis Management Center (CMC) is the main body for the day-to-day management of the Unified Emergency Prevention and Response State System (UEPRSS). It is therefore tasked with the provision of firm and continuos management of the forces and assets allocated for emergency prevention and response, provision of necessary information for the system as a whole, and for the coordination of all UEPRSS activities. CMC principal services are on stand-by duty round the clock. Apart of communications and hardware experts, duty service comprises chief duty officer and duty shift officers. Chief duty officer is to organize an immediate initial response on an emergency situation until eventual deployment of the emergency response temporary HQs.

EMERCOM specialists have participated in over 30 international search and rescue operations, including missions in Turkey, Afghanistan, Greece, Columbia, India, Algeria, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

The All-Russian Research and Scientific Institute for Civil Protection and Emergency Situations Problems is playing a leading role in scientific support and provision for EMERCOM of Russia's activities. It was established in 1976.

Areas of Concentration

Civil protection troops, numbering about 23,000 personnel as of 1999, represent the backbone of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. These troops are composed of rescue brigades, mechanized civil protection regiments and battalions, special protection companies and detached helicopters squadrons. They are armed with specialized equipment, such as engineering, medical, radiation, chemical and biological protection. In peacetime the civil protection troops function within the framework of the UEPRSS. As for wartime, they are under control of the Civil Protection system.

Civil protection troops are assigned to conduct emergency rescue work in zones of large accidents and catastrophes; detection and designation of areas of radioactive, chemical and biological poisoning; and to protect people and decontaminate equipment, buildings and territories. During the last few years of President Putin's presidency the forces concentrated on the evacuation of populations, offering vital assistance, restoring damaged infrastructure and sites, safeguarding humanitarian supplies, and fighting forest fires.

The Search and Rescue Service (PSS) of the EMERCOM is responsible for search and rescue operations in response to natural and man-made disasters. The PSS has 8 separate centers (7 in Russia's federal districts and 1 in Kaliningrad) and possessed over 10,000 staff members as of 2006. The organization includes its own management agencies, search and rescue detachments, and logistical support divisions. In 2005 the State Small Vessel's Committee's Water Rescue units were incorporated into its command.

The Central Search and Rescue Unit (CENTROSPAS) is an elite unit within EMERCOM that was formed in March 1992. The highly trained professional rescuers that constitute its ranks carry out salvation works, deliver aid and bring relief to victims of emergencies in Russia and abroad.

Similarly, the LEADER center within EMERCOM is a special division comprised of an elite force of qualified personnel. The organization is often assigned the most arduous search and rescue operations. Their primary tasks have been to protect and secure all humanitarian aid cargo and properties, and to detect, dispose, and demolish dangerous explosives and ammunition.

The State Small Vessels Inspection of Russia (SSVI) was established in 1984 and transferred under the authority of EMERCOM in August 2003. The organization had a variety of responsibilities, including issues concerning safety, accident prevention and salvation work on water in the event of emergencies throughout Russian territory, providing regular technical checks, safety measures for people on water, and assisting in search and rescue operations. The SSVI also supports scientific research, the development of innovative navigation safety requirements, and helps control pollution levels. In addition, the unit also takes charge on all issues pertaining to vessel registration and classification, and navigation licensing.

The State Emergency Rescue Service for Special-Purpose Underwater Work (GOSAKVASPAS) was created on June 28, 2001. Its primary duties are:

  • to prevent disasters and provide disaster relief on potentially dangerous underwater objects in the domestic waters and in the territorial Sea of the Russian Federation;
  • to participate in preparations for and the carrying out of search-and-rescue work, evacuation, and the administering of first aid to victims;
  • to perform special-purpose underwater work;
  • and to participate in the localization and liquidation of oil spills in the water environment.

In conjunction with the SSVI and GOSAKVASPAS, EMERCOM composed a charge of dangers at sea known as the Marine Register. It contains data on dangerous objects located in the Baltic, White, Kara, Okhotsk, Black, and Japan Seas, the Lake of Baikal, and in the Russian sector of the Pacific Ocean.

EMERCOM and the Russian Academy of Sciences undertook a joint operation and analyzed all probable threats to the Russian Federation, such as natural disasters, accidents caused by technology, and environmental changes. The result was an "Atlas of Natural and Non-Natural Dangers in the Russian Federation," which was published in 2005. Its purpose it to educate and assist national and local governmental bodies throughout the nation in order to enhance general efficiency, safety, and regional development.

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