Kids fighting fires. Kids finding lost kids in the woods. Kids rappelling down from a building. Kids assessing environmental risks. KIDS??? Thirty-eight lucky children between the ages of ten and thirteen got to explore exactly what it means to be part of Italy’s volunteer safety net, Protezione Civile. They also got an adrenal rush and I’m sure will consider becoming future volunteers.
Volunteers are a cornerstone of Pontelandolfo life. They organize arts activities, social events, parish festivals and most important of all ensure that Pontelandolfese are safe, secure and assisted in time of need. On call 24 hours a day, Protezione Civile Pontelandolfo, Civil Protection, is an organization of a highly trained and committed residents who are willing to leap into the fray whenever there is an emergency. On the news, you have seen volunteers like them, in their yellow trimmed uniforms, helping with search and rescue after earthquakes, floods etc. In Pontelandolfo, I have watched them do traffic control, handle snow emergencies, guide people to safety, assist the Italian Red Cross and essentially intervene whenever it was necessary. Click here for an example of their role with a 2015 flood and wind that knocked more than our sox off.
Italians have big hearts and have always had a willingness to lend a hand. After citizens mobilized independently to assist with the huge disasters that hit Italy in a fifty-year period, like the floods of Florence in 1966 and the Friuli and Irpinia earthquakes, it was recognized that an organized public system of deployment was necessary. In 1992, Protezione Civile, the National Service of Civil Protection, by law became an integral part of the public system.
This is serious business. The region organizes drills which simulate real risk situations. Since we live in an earthquake zone, our village hosted an earthquake drill.
It is so serious, that future leaders and volunteers are fostered through an annual exceptional week long summer camp. With the support of the National Department of Civil Protection, the Comune of Pontelandolfo and in collaboration with Protezione Civile di Fragneto L’Abate, Gruppo Comunale di Protezione Civile di Bisaccia, and Protezione Civile Irpinia di San Potito Ultra, Stefano Baldini, the head of our local Protezione Civile, and his team of volunteers organized Il Campo Scuola 2019.
From July 1 through July 7 this year, kids did the usual camp stuff like setting up and sleeping in a tent, they also were immersed in theoretical and practical civil protection training courses. What school in the summer??? Who would want to do that?? These kids certainly did. Besides it wasn’t all work and no play. Some of the work looked pretty exciting. The young trainees had to apply for admittance. The program was totally free! Participants came from Pontelandolfo, Morcone, Fragneto Monforte, Bisaccia, Sant’Angelo A Cupolo, San Potito, Aquilonia and Flumeri. Bringing kids from a variety of towns together makes sense. All of the individual Protezione Civile groups often work with each other. If it is an emergency or a giant festa that needs crowd control, we see uniforms from a variety of places. The kids working together at this age starts the collaboration ball rolling.
I remember being forced to go to Camp Speers ripping my forearm with a bow string and belly crawling with a 22 rifle. I hated every minute of it. If there had been some academic portion or if the firing a rifle was being taught for a real purpose I might not have fought tooth and nail not to go.
These campers got lots of physical activity and real-world experiences. Here is a quick overview – set up a field operation – yup put up the tents, rig electrical system etc.; over view of the National Civil Protection system; municipal contingency plans – what?? I have to pause here and tell Jack. My husband spent most of his adult career working in emergency preparedness planning. I bet after this camp some of these kids could write better municipal contingency plans than some of the town plans Jack read when he was with the State Police.
OK, back to the grueling week – they had a lesson on cartography ( I had to look the word up – science of drawing maps); figuring out territory orientation; using a map and a single compass figuring out a path through Mountain Cavello to lunch! No one got lost!!! I would have been found weeks later sitting on a log begging to go home. These kids were GREAT!.
After a lesson on the seismic conditions of our region and what to do if an earthquake hits, these kids leaped to another disaster. What do you do if someone is trapped high up on a hill with a broken leg or in a burning building? You use a safety harness, zip wire or rappel.
I’m exhausted just writing about all that they accomplished. And the list goes on – fire safety and protection, hydroeological risks (looked this up too – distribution and movement of groundwater in the soil and rocks of the Earth’s crust), use of radios for communication, working with canine units, forest fire rescues, searching for missing people, working with people with disabilities and…….
The kids who will be the leaders of tomorrow deserve a big round of applause and so do the volunteers of Protezione Civile Pontelandolfo who give their time, energy and love to our little village.