Natural and man-made disasters - floods, landslides, earthquakes, storm winds, hail, drought, wild fires and building fires are on the rise in the last decades in the Western Balkans. Human casualties, extensive damages to the urban areas, negative impact on the environment and further weakening of the regional economy are amongst indicators of increasing vulnerability. Preliminary surveys, done by project partners in the project preparation phase, have shown that shortage of skills exists. Knowledge and skills of the existing staff in this area (state administration, public institutions and companies) is based on the education acquired from other engineering disciplines. We have noticed very different levels of knowledge and skills, with many people learning on the job in an unstructured way. These competences, knowledge and skills are insufficient to solve the growing problems in the field of Disaster Risk Management and Fire Safety Engineering (DRM&FSE). Moreover, the lack of safety culture in society in general is notable.

Decision No 1313/2013/EU on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism, in view of the significant increase in the numbers and severity of natural and man-made disasters in recent years and in a situation where future disasters will be more extreme and more complex with far-reaching and longer-term consequences as a result, in particular, of climate change and the potential interaction between several natural and technological hazards, emphasize an integrated approach to disaster management as increasingly important. Prevention is of key importance for protection against disasters and requires further action as called for in the European Parliament Resolution (2010) entitled a "Community approach on the prevention of natural and manmade disasters". Reaching the prevention objectives and carrying out prevention actions, improving the disaster risk knowledge base and facilitating the sharing of knowledge, best practices and information, were defined as the first ranked action to take. Education and training (ET 2020) lie at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy to exit the recession and establish the foundations for future knowledge-based growth and social cohesion. The same goal is promoted in multiple EU documents, e.g.: European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA), South East Europe 2020 Strategy – Jobs and Prosperity in the European Perspective (SEE 2020 Strategy) and Supporting growth and jobs – an agenda for the modernization of Europe's higher education systems COM(2011) 567 final.

The above listed are common objectives and goals both for EU and WBC region, considering the on-going European integration process in the Balkans. Both wider and specific objectives of the project are in compliance with Partner countries’ national HE strategies and action plans, as well as national strategies in the field of fire protection and emergency situation.

Common regional needs to improve the resilience of the region to hazards are recognized:

  • the need for human resources – experts, competent to operate in prevention, reaction and recovery phases of the catastrophic events and solve engineering problems in the field of DRM&FSE.
  • the need to educate competitive experts, able to create sustainable financial plans for disaster preparedness and preventive measures, according to regional economy recourses.

According to official WBC HEIs records available, HE provision in this area is very scarce. There is only one academic master study programme (P1) and one vocational Specialist (P2) programme, but both need to be modernized. Number of graduates is insufficient for regional/national needs.

The overall broader objective to which K-FORCE project will contribute is to build a sustainable educational foundation in DRM&FSE field in WBCs and ensure national professional resources and regional capacity for resilient society. In the three years of K-FORCE project period, four curricula will be modernized or developed and implemented (in EN, SR, AL, BH) at WBC partner HEIs:

  • Disaster Risk Management and Fire Safety Engineering academic master/module programme (P1, P3, P4, P6)
  • Disaster Risk Management and Fire Safety Engineering academic doctoral programme at P1;
  • Protection Engineering vocational master programme at P2;
  • Economic and Financial Resilience vocational master module P5

K-FORCE members wish to improve the current provision in DRM&FSE education and training, by developing/modernizing programmes for current and future WBC workforce, also by establishing a continous offer of LLL courses for professionals. The teaching material developed for students will be customized for training of members of non-academic WB Partners (P13-P16) and to other interested companies and entities. Learning of both students and employees will be enhanced by utilization of an interactive ICT-based platform, access to which will be fully open to the public. A new DRRM&FSE network will be set up and shall involve academic staff and professionals from a wide range of interested stakeholders.

The project subject area Disaster Risk Management and Fire Safety Engineering refers to Multidisciplinary/Interdisciplinary priority amongst the national/regional priorities of Partner Countries, with Engineering and engineering trades as the dominant academic discipline. Other disciplines addressed by intended curricula are Environmental protection, Architecture and Construction, Civil Protection, Fire Science, Climatology, Hydrology, Seismology and Economy.

Specific syllabi will be dedicated to the vulnerable social groups’ safety (disabled people, hospitalised people, poor people living in slums, homeless, elderly people and children) as well as refugees/migrantes. EU law and technical standards will also be included in several syllabi.

Acquired knowledge in the field of Disaster Risk Management and Fire Safety Engineering will provide the base for building a resilient society.