Icelanders are well prepared to tackle disasters they are familiar with but not disastrous events of unexpected proportions, as stated by Víðir Reynisson, manager of the civic protection department of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, in his opening address at an international conference hosted by ICE-SAR at Grand Hotel in Reykjavík on Friday.
ICE-SAR search and rescue teams in North Iceland. Photo courtesy of ICE-SAR.
“The big question is whether something might happen that we don’t know of,” said Víðir, according to Fréttablaðið, adding that he believed it might. “And we aren’t prepared for what we don’t know.”
Víðir stated there are various measures that can be taken to make the nation better prepared for such a scenario. “We can strengthen the collaboration of scientists and the civic protection department. We can strengthen the collaboration of parties that are called out during disasters to prevent that the same people play many parts.”
For example, outside the capital region it is common that ICE-SAR members also serve as firefighters, ambulance workers, healthcare workers and even police officers.
Therefore, the number of people available to assist under such circumstances may be overestimated. “There are items of risk in the planning that must be considered when people face events of an unknown extent.”
Geophysics Professor Páll Einarsson also spoke at the conference. He discussed the risk of seismic and volcanic activity in the vicinity of Reykjavík and stated that on where the continental plates meet underneath Reykjanes peninsula, earthquakes of a magnitude of 6.0 to 6.5 can be expected every century.
“Eruptions on the borders of continental plates are usually lava eruptions except where water comes in contact with the eruption channel and causes phreatic eruptions. There are known circumstances for such eruptions in the Krýsuvík area and along the coastline by Reykjanestá,” Páll stated.
“The risk factor of volcanic eruptions on Reykjanes is mostly connected with lava flow, fissure movements, the impact of ash fall on transportation and possible pollution of groundwater,” Páll added.
The conference, entitled ‘Björgun,’ is among the largest in search and rescue in the world. It was attended by around 600 people and concluded on Sunday.
Click here to read more about speculations about eruptions on Reykjanes.