12 november 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on upgrading the equipment of the Emergencies Ministry

Vladimir Putin

At a meeting on upgrading the equipment of the Emergencies Ministry

“By 2015, 80% of the Emergencies Ministry’s equipment should be new and modern. Our plan to re-equip this ministry is, in many ways, unprecedented, and we must carry it out.”

Vladimir Putin’s opening address:

Good afternoon,

Today, we will discuss upgrading the Emergencies Ministry’s equipment. 

This summer’s wildfires have exposed the weaknesses of the system of warning and rapid response to emergencies. We are currently amending the legal and regulatory framework to improve the system. At yesterday’s meeting of the Government Presidium, we reviewed a draft law on volunteer fire-fighting. We must revive these organisations and equip them accordingly. We will have to carry out a large-scale programme to re-equip the Emergencies Ministry units and fire brigades.

A considerable part of the Emergencies Ministry’s special equipment has become obsolete and worn-out, and it is imperative to upgrade it. 

We have already made a number of line item allocations to upgrade the aviation fleet and fire-fighting equipment and to outfit state-owned helicopters to extinguish wildfires. Let me explain what I’m talking about. We have many helicopters in different departments, but they go essentially unused in the event of an emergency – not even essentially, they are not used at all. The helicopters simply do not have the right equipment. Adapting existing helicopters will be much cheaper than buying new specialised equipment.

We must plan our actions now with a view toward the long term if we want to fundamentally upgrade the equipment of the Emergencies Ministry. The ministry has drafted a programme for 2011-2015. We have seen some of this new, impressive equipment. But it represents just 30% of the equipment used by the Emergencies Ministry. We will spend a full 43 billion roubles in federal funds on the programme to re-equip the ministry. These funds will be used to purchase modern aircraft, fire engines and control and communications systems. We will spend 12.1 billion roubles on aircraft, 16.8 billion roubles on fire-fighting equipment, 6.3 billion roubles on modern gear, and three billion roubles to install new control and communication systems.

As a result, by 2015, 80% of the Emergencies Ministry’s equipment should be new and modern. Our plan to re-equip this ministry is, in many ways, unprecedented, and we must carry it out.

I would like to draw your attention to the following points.

First, we must realise that while wildfires are a serious threat, they are not the only threat we might face in the future. We must analyse the full range of potential risks, including both natural and man-made disasters, and do a thorough inventory of the special equipment available to the Emergencies Ministry before we decide what equipment we need now and in the future and for what specific tasks, as well as where to focus our financial and administrative resources.

Second, the new equipment must be used effectively. We must carefully plan how it will be used and how it will be distributed around the country, and we must train qualified crews to operate it. What we see in the academy is ground for a certain amount of optimism. But the programme to re-equip the ministry will only produce the desired result if we have good specialists.

Third, this programme will involve major government contracts. When choosing potential suppliers, it makes sense to give preference to Russian manufacturers on the condition that they strictly observe the technical requirements and offer competitive equipment in terms of both quality and price. I’m sure that our plants can produce such equipment. In fact, we saw this with our own eyes today at the special equipment exhibition. The ministry has been increasingly buying equipment from domestic producers. I’d like to draw your attention to this fact, and I hope that the ministry’s leadership will continue this policy.

Minister Shoigu, the floor is yours.

Sergei Shoigu: Thank you. Mr Prime Minister, colleagues, as a follow-up to the president and the government’s instructions, we are working to improve the efficiency and expand the capabilities of the Ministry of Emergency Situations  firefighting and rescue teams.  Mr Prime Minister, the decision you made almost nine years ago to merge the ministry’s rescue and firefighting divisions has helped to improve their effectiveness, resulting in a 20% decrease in the number of fires over this period. More importantly, casualties have dropped by half and property damage has also dwindled.

At the same time, we need to work further to modernise our infrastructure. We have focused on several priorities. First of all, we are carrying out the government’s large-scale plans to strengthen the ministry’s airborne division. This summer our airborne division performed very well, and you made the decision to expand it. Over the next few years we expect to receive eight Beriev Be-200 aircraft and two An-148 aircraft equipped with onboard medical units.  In addition, there is a plan to purchase equipment to detect and fight wildfires, including irrigation equipment, for the airborne divisions of the Defence and Interior Ministries and the Federal Security Service. Overall, in 2011 we plan to have 99 more aircraft for firefighting purposes, including 14 planes and 85 helicopters. Russia will have more such aircraft than all the European countries taken together.

Another pressing challenge is the need to increase the effectiveness of our MVA response operations with the help of aircraft. Currently the ministry’s teams respond to every second car accident, making between 300 and 400 trips daily. Over next five years we plan to buy an additional 18 Kamov Ka-32 and Mil Mi-8 helicopters. They will help us reduce response time for road accidents and transport the injured, particularly in remote and low-access regions. These helicopters will also be used by our medical teams. I’d like to remind everyone that the prime minister directed us to take measures to increase their effectiveness in the wake of the accident on the railway connecting Moscow and St Petersburg, following which we carried out a series of comprehensive measures. In particular, we constructed and equipped helicopter pads at medical facilities along the railway. The same is being done at the motorway on this route. We have almost completed this. This will allow all services to respond quickly in case of any emergency. 

The next major task is the modernisation of the infrastructure of the Federal Firefighting Service. Much has been done to meet this challenge in the past few years. Firefighters and rescuers have gotten new vehicles, equipment and uniforms. But, unfortunately, only 30% of the service’s vehicles and equipment are up-to-date, which you noted already today. We upgraded part of the service’s infrastructure through the federal targeted programme for fire safety. Even though it was carried out on a relatively small scale, it allowed us to improve the service’s performance a great deal. The annual number of fires fell by 13,500, the number of their victims decreased by 1,200, and this positive trend persists. These figures can be further reduced through the use of new methods and equipment for fire prevention and fire fighting. Connected with this, I’d like to mention that Russia and Austria have created a joint enterprise to produce modern equipment. In particular, it manufactures Rosenbauer’s innovative firefighting and rescue vehicles. The ministry’s teams have already received such vehicles, and there is a plan to purchase up to 200 vehicles of this type annually in compliance with the programme I’ve mentioned. On the whole the figure will be about 1,500 vehicles  annually. Just as important, the law on volunteer firefighting, which we spoke about today, holds that the ministry will transfer decommissioned vehicles to such units.

We will also adopt innovative communications and command systems, modern firefighting methods and robotic technologies. Today we demonstrated one such tested and certified system. We hope that it will soon be deployed at high security nuclear, energy, defence and petrochemical facilities. This family of robots was successful in tests held in Sarov this summer. Following the directive that you, Mr Prime Minister, gave in 2001, we developed the most advanced bomb disposal robots that are currently used in the Chechen Republic. Unfortunately, two months ago one of these robots was destroyed during an operation but, on the positive side, we managed to save people’s lives. Such robots are also used in Nicaragua and in Serbia, where they clear mines along the route of the South Stream pipeline. I’d like to stress that every day the ministry’s teams find and destroy between 150 and 200 explosive objects in Russia and abroad. We plan to assign such robots to other task force units of the ministry, deploying heavy robots (20 units) at high security facilities. We hope that Rosatom [the State Nuclear Energy Corporation] will do the same.

We have also developed a draft programme for re-equipping the ministry’s units and teams up to 2015, as required by our infrastructure modernisation strategy. Mr Prime Minister, I’d like to thank you again for supporting this programme, which you have just promised to adopt. It will allow us to increase the share of modern vehicles and equipment to 80%, decrease the scale of damage caused by fires by a third and reduce the number of victims of fires by 4,000-5,000 annually, which is our primary goal. I’d like to note that the area destroyed by fires across the country annually is equal to the area of a town with a population of 130,000. We, in the ministry, believe that it is necessary to adopt similar programmes in regions. I’d also like to highlight that our ministry jointly with the Ministry of Defence are cooperating on a very important project. We decommission old vehicles, including mobile spray stations, retrofit them as firefighting trucks and deploy them in villages. Last year our ministry decommissioned and retrofitted  475 such vehicles. Next year the Defence Ministry alone will provide another 1,400 such vehicles to villages.

I’d like to draw your attention to several more issues of crucial importance. Our ministry is implementing a series of federal targeted programmes. This work is very important. Through these programmes, we collaborate with federal executive bodies and local authorities, which allows us to address security problems more effectively. For example, through the Fire Safety Programme most of the regions are involved in the programme for retrofitting vehicles and, what is most important, delivering them to villages which never had fire trucks before. There are 32,000 such villages across the country with a total population of 37 million people. We also developed a programme for reducing risks and mitigating the effects of emergencies after you, Mr Prime Minister, instructed us to work out a plan to ensure security in Russia’s Far East at a meeting with hydrometeorological centre officials and scholars from the Academy of Sciences in the wake of the tragic events in Southeast Asia. This programme is close to being realised. The tsunami alert system on Kamchatka and Sakhalin will soon become fully operational.

However, there are still many issues to be addressed. One of them is your order to create a tornado alert system on the coast of the Black Sea. We’d like this programme to be adopted and extended through 2015. We have held a series of consultations with our partners to coordinate the details. The only question that still remains open is the programme’s funding in 2014 and 2015. The system will be ready only at 70-80% in 2013, and we’d like it to be complete and comprehensive. Another federal targeted programme, for fire safety, will be concluded in 2012. It has proved very effective, which is supported by fewer casualties. We’d also like to ask you to extend this programme through 2015.

Moving to volunteer firefighting, we hope that the State Duma will pass the corresponding law already this year. For the record, there are almost 700,000 volunteer firefighters in small Germany, one million in Japan, and about 700,000 in the United States, while the number of professional firefighters is practically the same as in Russia. This legislation is very important for encouraging people to create and join volunteer firefighting brigades. It details almost all the issues we’ve discussed today.

One more issue I’d like to bring up – we have met with members of three mine rescue services that work in the construction, ore mining and coalmining industries. At the meeting in Mezhdurechensk we reported back to you on the state of these services. We suggest creating an integrated paramilitary mine rescue service. Currently, a part of mine rescuers are employed in operations in tunnels and on the metro, some in coal mines and others in ore mines. Some teams participate in rescue operations only once a year while others do it every week. Given this, it’s clear that budget funds are being used ineffectively. Under a new system, all teams will be equipped and trained in the same manner. The proposed paramilitary mine rescue service will be very effective. We also believe it is necessary to create an airborne mobile mine rescue team in Kemerovo Region, which will respond to serious accidents in mines on its own or participate in rescue operations together with other teams of the integrated service.

Mr Prime Minister, we hope that you, and all of our colleagues, will support us on all these issues. This concludes my report. Thank you.

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Sergei Ivanov: I would like to point out just a few issues. As for the reinforcement of the ministry’s aircraft, of course, I support this completely. There is still a source of concern, but not in terms of allocating funds but in terms of controlling spending. What do I mean? Under the programme adopted, large resources are to be channelled not to the Emergencies Ministry, but to the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of the Interior for re-equipping their fleet for fire-fighting purposes. So, they will receive the funds, rather than the Emergencies Ministry. We have agreed with Mr Shoigu that all the funds that are used for those purposes will be transferred to the Military-Industrial Commission so that we can ensure that they are spent properly. Under existing laws, the governmental customer is entitled to alter the amount of funds earmarked for this or that purpose throughout the year. In short, we will not allow the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of the Interior to spend this money for any other purposes, ensuring that they are used for the goals established.

In terms of new aircraft, Alexei Fyodorov (president of United Aircraft Corporation) is present here. I think that in this matter we should follow the same approach as in purchasing weapons and equipment: large contracts, as large as possible because they are less expensive. If an order is made for, let say, eight aircraft, the purchase of parts always costs less than if the planes were ordered individually. But, this raises the question of financial guarantees for the entire period of building such aircraft. For example, if we start with eight Be-200s, we will make four of them before 2013 and the rest afterwards. The Ministry of Emergencies must be sure that these funds will still be available after 2013, otherwise we will not fulfil the programme because everything is interconnected there. In addition, I would like to emphasise that in terms of implementing the fifth GLONASS programme, the Ministry of Emergencies is a leader in the field of national security. You have seen that practically all the new equipment (at least vehicles) purchased by the Ministry of Emergencies already has built-in GLONASS devices. And, please, continue supporting this, of course. All new equipment should have GLONASS navigation systems.

And the last thing: I think that everything that Mr Kirienko (Sergei Kirienko, general director of Rosatom) said is absolutely correct. It is a key issue – safety strips around some, not even all of the agency’s nuclear facilities (there are only a few now). The important thing here is nuclear security, and not the Forest Code, and all other matters are secondary. And if we reach such a conclusion, then as soon as your instructions are issued I am ready to raise the question of putting the safety strips in proper condition in the context of nuclear security.

* * *

Vladimir Putin’s concluding remarks: Colleagues, we have considered a very important and serious issue today. The urgency of this issue became apparent this past summer. However, all of us understand that such weather conditions are unusual for our country and may occur anytime and anywhere. Unfortunately, human beings cannot yet control such things.  

As I already said at the beginning in my introduction, we must be prepared not only for surprises like the ones we had this summer but also for other possible man-made or natural disasters. An example of this is the natural disaster that hit the southern regions of our country quite recently when floods claimed lives and damaged property. We must also be prepared for man-made disaster situations.  All of this should be further examined by professionals. We must be prepared for any course of events.

As for today’s decision, I want to repeat that the funding allocated for these purposes is significant compared to what has been earmarked for other departments, 43 billion roubles over the past few years. I think that the government has never provided this much money for such purposes before. We need to spend this money sensibly.

Of course, if issues related to financing have not been resolved yet, at least on an annual basis, I would ask you to finalise them with the Ministry of Finance. I cannot rule out the possibility that they will have to make some adjustments, but we cannot afford to endlessly retool either.  That is why the pace of this should take account of both the preparedness of the industry and the availability of funding.

I would like to request that the Ministry of Emergencies and the Ministry of Finance finalise the issues as soon as possible. If you fail to come to terms, please bring your disagreements to me. Then I will take these decisions myself, although I would prefer that your departments reach a reasonable compromise.

Thank you.