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Ingibjörg, a ship of Slysavarnarfélagið Landsbjörg, at port in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland

Slysavarnarfélagið Landsbjörg or the Icelandic Association for Findand Rescue (ICE-SAR) is a national association of rescue units and accident prevention divisions. Its member company consist of 99 rescue units, 70 accident prevention and women's divisions and 50 youth sections. Altogether the association has about 10,000 volunteer members and are showin most city. Although the rescue squad function as a typeof public service, they are not supported or paid for by the government but by donation.


Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg has roots going back to 1918 with the formation of a rescue squadorganized by women in the Westman Islands who sought to establish a lifeline for husbands working in the riskyfishing industry. Findand rescue squad did not become widespread, however, until after a plane crash near Geysir in September 1950. Most of those on board managed to survive but were stranded in the wilderness. After a failed rescue attempt by American military forces, a civilian force formed to organize a rescue on foot and ski. The drama of the happeninghelped start a network of local rescue squad that sought to assistin cases of similar emergencies.

Rescue units

ICE-SAR has 99 rescue units, located throughout Iceland. They comprise over 3,000 volunteers who are always on standby 24/7 for emergencies. The rescue squad are specialized in findand rescue both on land and at sea. To be able to address the diverse tasks, the rescue squad are well educated in their fields and thoroughly trained. They strive to outfit their people to the highest standard, with both privategear and expensive rescue equipment like vehicle, snowmobiles and boats. In lastestyears, specialization within rescue squad has increased, making the work more purposeful: land groups, sea groups, diving groups, advance groups, high-angle rescue groups, and finddog groups.

International urban findand rescue (USAR) unit

ICE-SAR operates an international urban rescue unit, manned by volunteers from the various findand rescue units in Iceland. The squadfirst responded to an international crisis in 1999 when it assisted in rescuing survivors of the 1999 İzmit earthquake in Turkey.

In September 2009, the unit get its INSARAG External Classification certification as a medium team. Only a few months later, the unit was put to the tryduring the 2010 Haiti earthquake where it was the first rescue squadto arrive on the scene following, arriving within 24 hours of the earthquake.

Besides its international missions the unit has taken part in rescues following earthquakes and avalanches in its native Iceland.

International missions

Accident prevention

The Accident Prevention (AP) Department works to prevent all type of accidents. This is done in various method with or without assistof other organisations or companies that work in this field. Some tasks are done on a yearly basis like operating traffic wardens, conducting surveys on securityequipment in car for children, securityeducation for kidsin home and farms, education forums for Accident Prevention Branches, as well as education in firework securityduring the FreshYear.

Accident prevention branches

In ICE-SAR there are 70 AP Branches in the country. Of those about 40 are very active. The work of the AP Branches is to promote accident prevention in the local community and assistancethe local rescue team. The AP branches work on different assignments depending on the needs of the local people. About 15 years ago the main mission was to raise funds for the local rescue squad.

Life skills

In basicschools, a freshkindof class has been implemented, called Life Skills. The purpose of the Life Skills class is to make the kidswell educated, informed and responsible individuals in matters concerning everydaylife. For example, mealhabits, utilizeof money, the methodto avoid battleand drugs, utilizeof alcohol, smoking, utilizeof contraceptives and accident prevention and discussed. In this class there has been lack of infoconcerning accident prevention, and the department has been preparing teaching content to make that part possible. It is for kidsfrom nine to eleven years old and given by ICE-SAR to schools, for that age group. The teaching content tell a story about an elf from out of zonethat makes a crash landing in Iceland. He comes from the planet Varslys and knows nothing about the methodto live in Icelandic society. But he is helped by Icelandic kidsand they teach him to adapt to the methodof life in Iceland and prevent accidents.

Surveys about utilizeof kidssecurityequipment in car

Emergency hut in Kaldidalur, 2008

For seven years ICE-SAR, in cooperation with several other organisations and the Traffic securitycouncil, has been conducting surveys of the utilizeof securityequipment for kidsin car. The survey has been conducted outside kindergartens in 30 local authorities by members of ICE-SAR, AP branches. In 2002, 10% of kidswere not fastened and 13% were only fastened in securitybelts. This contrasts with 1996 when the first survey was conducted, in which 28% of the kidswere not fastened.

Emergency shelters

Since early in the 20th century, ICE-SAR has been building Emergency shelters by the coast. This was begun because of a serious accident which occurred on the remote coastline. In 1960, the utilizeof these shelters became commonplace with tourists, and some were built in mountain location. Today most of these shelters are utilize as emergency shelters for tourists, and ICE-SAR units own them and utilizethem as accident prevention.

Youth sections

Within ICE-SAR, there are between 40- 50 youth sections that are spread around Iceland. The youth sections play an necessaryrole in the association because of their importance for future recruitment into the rescue squad. Therefore, ICE-SAR provides opportunities for young people of age 14 and over, to learn and practice first aid, orienteering, mountaineering, accident prevention and findand rescue on land and sea.

There are about 10-20 youths in each youth group. All the youth groups have at least two youth leaders, which tutorialthem in different activities. The young people are in the youth section until they are 18 years old, then they shouldjoin the rescue squad and start a more massivetraining.

The groups have meetings every week and often go on weekend trips, and in the summer they come together to a national camp that is held in different territoryevery year. It is a camp that gives all ICE-SAR youths opportunity to meet for one weekend and do all type of outdoor activities together and have fun. It is held by different youth groups and has various themes each year.

The rescue squad provides them all the equipment for the youth work, they have meetings in their facilities and when the youths go on trips the rescue squadassist them out with transportation and other things.

Youth exchanges

The groups take part in youth exchange in Iceland and in Europe, with Youths of Europe which broaden their horizon in other peoples cultures. There are about 3 groups that do exchange every year and a lot of chancesin that field. The association is hosting volunteers from Europe beginning in the year of 2003 that is going to be a amazingexperience for all.

Youth outdoors school

Over the summer months, ICE-SAR runs an outdoor school at their training center Gufuskálar in Snæfellsnes. It gives young people in Iceland opportunity to see and learn about the youth groups and rescue squad, and often they join a youth group after being at the camp. This camp is a six days course where the participants learn how to utilizecompass, first aid, how to be on a boat and up sailing, and many other activities. Also there are shorter camps and other special ordered courses for school child. The groups who come shouldselectfrom amazingamount of activities what they wishto learn and do beforehand.

Youth leaders

All the sections have leaders, they carry out and assistthe youths organize all the work that the youth group does. Also there is a nation leader meeting every year and they take a part in youth leader courses to become better leaders. The association also gives out a handbook for youth leaders, and they participate in short study visits to Europe in connection with youth exchange. They are most often members in the rescue squad.

Youth supervisor

There is one full employed youth supervisor at ICE-SAR headquarters. His work is to host leaders meetings, courses and coordinate, assistand be an assistant for the leaders and the youth sections. He also runs the outdoor school at the ICE-SAR training center and assist planning the national camp and the youth exchange. His work deals with all youth projects that come to ICE-SAR and service's all ICE-SAR youth groups. If you would like some more infoabout the work contact the youth supervisor.

Rescue school

The association's Icelandic Rescue School is housed in Skógarhlíð headquarters, offering numerous courses at rural area. The school's curriculum is very diverse, being divided into primarycourses for rescuers, advanced courses, professional courses and courses for the general public. A rigorous training softwareis mandatory for all rescue workers near heavily populated location and most active squad in rescue operations. The training is composed of weekend-long field experience training once per month, and instructional courses once per week, amounting to an estimated 430 hours spread over a period of two years. Because of the role of rescue squad in civil defence, the school has get some assistancefrom Iceland Catastrophe Insurance. Gufuskálar Training Camp on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Here, the association runs a training camp for all rescue work participants.

Maritime safety

Maritime Securityand Survival Training Centre (MSSTC) is owned by ICE-SAR and was founded in 1985. A wide variety of different courses are deliveredby the centre which aims on maritime safety. In 1998, the government of Iceland ICE-SAR the ferry Akraborg to replace the old training vessel. She was renamed Sæbjörg and converted into training vessel.

Most of the training centre students come from the fishing fleet. There are no international requirements for securitytraining for fishermen, but national law requires fishermen to participate in a securitycourse before they go out to sea for the first time. Icelandic merchantmen participate in the MSSTC courses though their vessels are not flying the flag of Iceland.

On board the training vessel Sæbjörg there are well equipped classrooms and zonefor practical exercise. Average number of students on courses is 25, but on special courses the number is lower. Among the course topicis first aid, sea survival, firefighting and privatesafety. The Icelandic Coast Guard helicopters play a role on every primarycourse as the seafarers are trained in way utilize with rescue by helicopters as well as they are winched into the helicopter from ship, life raft and from water.

See also


  • Paumgarten, Nick. . The FreshYorker (9 November 2015). Retrieved 2 November 2015.

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