Social sector

Come to rescue: how volunteers work together with Moscow rescuers

Come to rescue: how volunteers work together with Moscow rescuers
We tell you about the volunteers’ path to becoming rescuers, their help to Moscow residents and professional colleagues, and those whom they have already helped.

Social security volunteers are always ready to help rescuers and Moscow residents. They participate in search and rescue operations, fire fighting, help ensure safety at big events, and are even ready to rescue a cat from an air shaft or high tree. There are 3,200 such volunteers in Moscow who have already received special training and now help professionals. In the first half of 2022 alone, they saved 104 people and 98 animals.

Volunteers with rescuer qualification

The social search and rescue squad SpasReserv was established in Moscow in 2007. Today, it has almost 300 volunteers with 150–200 of them regularly on duty. They are always ready to support Moscow rescuers.

To join the rescue squad, people are trained first. It can take days to months. For example, it takes almost six months to go to their first onsite visit together with the SpasReserv volunteers. This is 3.5 months of training, exams, and then one more exam at the certification commission for emergency rescue services and organizations. After that, the volunteer receives the rescuer qualification and only then can take up duty. There can be at least two shifts per month depending on the volunteer’s wishes and desires.

Yelena Shalimova

"Our volunteers are people over 18 who are trained apart from their main job as rescuers and then work together with professionals but are not paid salary for it. They get into training at the request of SpasReserv or other social rescue organizations. We dispatch 75 people for training annually," says Yelena Shalimova, Deputy Head of the SpasReserv social search and rescue squad.

Volunteers study the same programs as professionals at the training and methodology center for civil defense and emergency situations in Moscow. They are trained psychologically, learn how to provide first aid, and study the basics of search and rescue operations, as well as rescue equipment. After training, would-be rescuers take practice and theory qualification exams, and a physical fitness test.

During the shift, the SpasReserv volunteers receive 3–16 calls from 112 service operators and fire dispatchers. The squad can do the same tasks as professional rescuers except for those in an environment unsuitable for breathing and related to chemical hazardous substances.

The rescue squad often goes out to help Moscow residents and animals in a difficult situation. For example, volunteers help doctors put down a heavy patient to an ambulance car from a house without an elevator, they can unlock a door shut by a child, cut a ring off a swollen finger, or take part in the post-accident clean-up. Recently, volunteers helped free a child who fell through the hole between the seat and the back of a plastic chair and got stuck. They had to use a grinder to saw the chair.

In late summer, the squad went to Plekhanov Street where two cars collided. Volunteers along with firefighters and rescuers unblocked the victim using special tools and then handed them over to doctors.

And, of course, the squad helps cats, dogs, and other animals stuck in inaccessible places. "Once, our guys rescued a little swift tangled in a rope under the roof of a five-story building. They released it using climbing equipment. Once they even used tweezers to take out a bat from a suspended ceiling, the whole thing took them almost an hour," said Yelena Shalimova.

She highlighted that rescuers come to help animals if complex work using special tools is required.

Rescuers from student days

You can become a social safety volunteer when you’re still a university student. For example, you can join the All-Russian Student Rescue Corps (ARSRC). In Moscow, it has over 300 volunteers from 14 squads from different universities and colleges.

Just like in SpasReserv, every student volunteer is trained. However, the training is much shorter.

Maxim Dzhetygenov

"Beginners get 72 hours of initial students rescuer training. They get basic knowledge and skills on first aid, psychological support, fire training, mountaineering, topography, radio communication, and interaction with special services. In general, they learn how our organization works. Instructors of our department and professional rescuers, firefighters and psychologists give this training," said Maxim Dzhetygenov, Head of the Moscow Office of the All-Russian Student Rescue Corps.

After this course, people can become security volunteers at large public events. You can recognize members of the All-Russian Student Rescue Corps by their blue and red overalls or blue dress uniform with insignia. Since the beginning of the year, they have participated in almost 150 events, including the Immortal Regiment. Volunteers also participated in rescue operations and a humanitarian mission helping Donbass residents.

According to Maxim Dzhetygenov, children often get lost at public events and parents ask volunteers for help. Volunteers get the description of the child and start looking for them immediately. For example, at the Bolshaya Peremena festival this summer, volunteers responded to 24 requests to find children.

Besides, at events, volunteers often provide first aid if people get heat strokes or feel dizzy or need to have a wound dressed, etc. "Our guys are on duty in pairs, and for such cases one of them always has a first aid kit in the backpack. They also accompany those who feel bad to a bench or ambulance, which is usually on duty nearby," he explained.

The student rescue corps notes that volunteers can develop their skills further and get the instructor qualification. "This will allow to hold field training for new volunteers. In the future, volunteers can get thorough training and be certified as rescuers," said Maria Ostroumova, a volunteer, an ARSRC member, head of the joint squad of the Moscow city department of the organization.

She highlights that if a person truly wants to help, the organization can always find an activity for them. For example, disabled people who want to join the rescue corps can also get important missions: assist at the headquarters or do photo and video recording.

To learn about enrollment for the training, visit the squad’s official groups on social networks. Besides, every university that has a squad runs campaigns for students to tell about the ARSRC and development prospects.

University’s own rescue squad

Some educational institutions themselves offer students to become volunteer rescuers. For example, the student fire and rescue squad of the State University of Management accepts concerned students who want to develop themselves as rescuers. For other young people, there is a joint squad of the Moscow city department to apply for.

Volunteers from the student squad are trained at the Moscow city department housed by the State University of Management.

"An important and the only criterion for volunteers is good health with no contraindications. Our volunteers are 14–35 years old," says Mukhridin Nazriev, head of the student fire and rescue squad of the State University of Management.

Volunteers are often called to unlock doors and fight small fires, there are also field visits related to car accidents.

"The gender ratio in the rescue squad is fifty-fifty. Usually women provide first aid and psychological support but some of them work with fire extinguishers and hoses, there are no gender limitations. At the same time, volunteer rescuers should know all the aspects of our work," he said.