Emergency Evacuation Training in Georgia

Group of civilians and military people posing for photo by a museum banner
Friday participants in the training course, "Planning for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage of Georgia" organised by Blue Shield Georgia and supported by Blue Shield International, 17-20 May 2022 © BSI / BS Georgia.

Over 40 people attended the final training event in the project “Planning for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage of Georgia” organised by the Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield and generously funded by the ALIPH Foundation. Blue Shield International were excited to support the planning and implementation of the event, which focussed on the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict in Georgia, with a particular emphasis on emergency museum evacuation.

From 17-20 May 2022, participants from the National Guard, Gori Municipality, a Representative of the State Administration – the Governor of Shida Kartli, the National Commission for UNESCO, General Mazniashvili Youth Legion, the UNESCO National Commission, Georgian Society of the Red Cross, Security Police, and staff from six museums in the Shida Kartli region, including staff from the Sergi Makalatia Historical-Ethnographic Museum of Gori, attended two days of theoretical capacity building at the National Guard headquarters in Tblisi, before spending two days at the Historical-Ethnographic Museum for practical training in museum evacuation. The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) also attended the final exercise as observers.

Over the first two days, attendees were introduced to the laws surrounding heritage protection in conflict, with particular focus on the obligations of the 1954 Hague Convention in both peace and conflict, and their implementation in Georgia. Blue Shield International and Blue Shield Georgia guided them through theory and through scenario-based desktop exercises. They began by looking at high level general situations, before focussing on a (fictional) escalating crisis. Participants also enjoyed virtual talks by Col. de Jesse, Commander of the US Heritage Protection Officers, and Cmdr Curtis of the UK Cultural Property Protection Unit, who spoke about the cultural protection work of their units. The fictional crisis ultimately resulted in a government order to evacuate the museum, and participants spent the last two days at the Gori Museum, where they split into groups to plan, and then to evacuate, a museum in an emergency. The groups assessed the museum, identified priority items and documented them, packed them, and transported them to a pre-arranged shelter, where they were redocumented to ensure that they could located and adequately managed in the new space, all supported by the security group.

It was exciting to be part of such an important event for safeguarding Georgian heritage. It was inspiring to see the commitment and passion demonstrated by the participants across the full spectrum of risk assessment, crisis planning, and action.

Michael Delacruz, BSI Secretariat Tweet

The course was the final training event in a two-year project for safeguarding the heritage of the Gori municipality. The project aims to enhance the disaster risk preparedness and management of moveable cultural heritage in the conflict-affected town of Gori, and to improve civil-military cooperation among relevant state authorities engaged with cultural heritage protection in times of crisis. Previous capacity building events in the project have included preventative conservation, as well as first aid training for collections.

The final product of the project will be a Disaster Risk Management Plan for the Museum, which is already in preparation.

Everything we have learned over the last two years of the safeguarding project all came together in this latest training. We are very thankful to Blue Shield Georgia. I have worked in the Gori Museum for twenty years and, despite the risk, we have never before explored these issues. We are very lucky that this training was done in our museum. As much as I hope to never use this information, I feel so lucky that we have it.
Woman with black hair, red top and high vis vest on
Tamila Koshoridze
Gori Historical-Ethnographic Museum

The Blue Shield Movement seeks to bring together humanitarian actors, uniformed services, and heritage professionals, with a common goal of protecting cultural heritage and creating healthy, peaceful, secure, sustainable communities. To see how well that was realised in Georgia was fantastic. I am certain that the connections forged over this event will continue to grow and strengthen. Our huge congratulations to the Georgian National Committee.

Emma Cunliffe, BSI Secretariat Tweet
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