Hellenic Rescue Team Lesvos
The Hellenic Rescue Team Lesvos is a lifesaving organisation entirely run by volunteers, responsible for saving lives on land and at sea. Formed in 2001, the team provide a rescue and first aid service to the island of Lesvos in the Aegean Sea.
Our mission is to offer aid to our fellow human beings, whose lives are in danger, under any conditions and in all natural and non-made environments, within Greece and abroad.
Our goal is to be everywhere, at any time. We are always present at the site of the incident. We are the first to get ther and the last to leave.
Sense of Responsibility
We recognize that what we have to offer is important and valuable and that our actions have a significant impact on those around us. As such, whatever we do, we do it responsibly, with honor and complete respect for the values we serve.
We put our words into action and continuously undergo training, maintaining a high level of knowledge. Armed with our training, we work hard to give the greatest possible help whenever we are called upon.
Love for Human Life
Our actions and activities are motivated by love for the greatest good, that of human life. We are committed to serving and protecting this good to the best of our abilities.
The Water Search and Rescue Department of the Hellenic Rescue Team was staffed and began its activities in 2001 by members of the Team who were involved with the sea and, more generally, with water.
Beginning its activities with rather meager means, the Water Search and Rescue Department is now one of the HRT’s central departments. Its mission is to search and rescue in the sea, rivers, lakes, in regions and fields that are experiencing floods and, in general, wherever water is a hazard to human life.
The department is staffed by experienced pilots of speedboats, lifeguards, swift water rescuers, sailors, scuba divers, and support staff.
The department’s equipment includes inflatable speed lifeboats, diving equipment, first aid equipment and telecommunications equipment. Its members undergo continuous training, both with exercises that are held within the department and through joint training activities with other agencies that are active in water search and rescue, such as the Port Police, the Coast Guard, the Air Force and the Civil Protection Service. It also works with private professional trainers who have a high-level of training in their field and with foreign search and rescue organisations.
The department, in addition to its activities on an operational level, is active in other areas, such as providing protection at sailing, swimming and rowing races and canoeing and kayaking competitions. It also provides information to schools, associations and sailing clubs on the dangers one might face at sea and near water in general.
In spring/summer 2015, levels of refugees and migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to Lesvos from Turkey reached crisis levels, with thousands of migrants a day making the dangerous crossing in overcrowded boats not fit for sea.
The island is positioned just five kilometres at its narrowest point across the sea from the Turkish coast. This stretch of Aegean sea is known as the Eastern Mediterranean route and is treacherous to cross.
According to the UN, 173,450 people entered Greece via sea in 2016. Most travelled on leaking, wooden boats and old rubber RIBs with defective engines. Such boats are designed to carry ten people, not one hundred, meaning the slightest movement risks capsizing the vessel and its passengers into the freezing sea.
Tragically, the crisis resulted in the death of hundreds of men, women and children. In the midst of this drowning crisis, the Hellenic Rescue Team of Greece requested international support through the International Maritime Rescue Federation.
The British Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) responded to this request and provided equipment and training support to the HRT Lesvos Branch. As a result of this support, the team is now ready to respond 24/7, within 30 minutes, to emergency call-outs from the Hellenic Coastguard. The team is now considered the islanders’ principal provider of maritime search and rescue.
The team uses one Oceanis sponsor boat donate by the Ministry of Mercantile Marine, the Aegean and Island Policy and two reconditioned Atlantic 75 lifeboats gifted by the RNLI, boats that have already saved many lives in the UK. These lifeboats, operated by skilled volunteers, now continue the heritage of lifesaving, providing water rescue capability to the island and those in harm’s way – whether migrants, tourists or the local population.
The Mountain Rescue Department is the oldest part of the Hellenic Rescue Team and is made up of volunteers who love the mountain and are engaged in mountain sports. The purpose of the department is to provide assistance and participate in search and rescue operations whenever necessary.
The department has all the necessary special equipment to intervene in mountaineering and air accidents in mountainous areas, carrying out even the most difficult operations.
The members of the Mountain Rescue Department are trained volunteers, each of whom specializes in a specific area of interest: high mountain, rock, ski patrol, canyon or mountaineering.
It has a long-term cooperation with the Air Force and the Army Air Force for over 30 years, while members are trained with trainers trained or attending seminars, trainings and exercises, and are in co-operation with similar teams from abroad, (Austria for avalanches, Serbia for ski patrol, France for mountain rescue and helicopter operations).
Corresponding sections of Mountain Rescue exist in almost every branch of the Hellenic Rescue Team so that there is a direct coverage of every mountainous volume of the Greek territory.
The Hellenic Rescue Team’s First Aid Department trains team members as well as members of the public, clubs, schools and businesses.
The department is comprised of first aid trainers and assists the other HRT departments.
First aid instructors from HRT train new members of the team in basic first aid to an international standard. The team also covers Lesvos cultural and sports events, offering first aid support.
One of the most important objectives of the department is accident/injury prevention through education and increased awareness of citizens, and for this reason HRT organizes first aid training sessions, workshops and conferences that are open to all, on a regular basis.
The purpose of HRT’s Disaster Response Department (D.R.D) is to provide immediate and coordinated response and mobilization during massive and extensive disasters, to conduct research and rescue operations, and the continuous training of its members.
The HRT’s Disaster Response Department is a certified member of the United Nations’ International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) and is the only certified voluntary NGO in Greece.
The Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team is staffed by members with the following specialisations, independently of its strengths and operational involvement:
In 2017, an earthquake shook the island of Lesvos. The earthquake’s epicentre was five km south of Plomari. It had a magnitude of 6.3 and a maximum perceived intensity of IX (Violent) on the Mercalli intensity scale. Extensive damage was caused on parts of southern Lesbos, where there was one fatality and 10 people were injured.
The Hellenic Rescue Team were at the core of the island’s disaster response in the aftermath of the earthquake. We operated in the village of Vrissa, which was most affected by the earthquake, contributing to the work of the Fire Brigade and providing First Aid to residents who were in trouble.
Humanitarian & Social Care Department
This HRT department collects, transports and distributes humanitarian aid to communities or individuals affected by natural disasters or degrading situations, as well as administer assistance and relief programs both in Greece and in third countries, in collaboration with both Greek Authorities and the European Union (ECHO).
It has taken part in operations In Afghanistan (1999), Iraq (2004), Iran (2004), Indonesian tsunami (2005), Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2009).
Since 2009, this HRT Lesvos branch, has been running the “Love convoy” with which it supports families with financial issues during the Christmans period. HRT collects and provides these families with food, essential items (eg for hygiene) and kids games.