Thursday, 24 February 2022

Croatian Mountain Rescue Service Turns 72: 'We Only Have One Wish'

February 24th, 2022 - The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service was founded in Zagreb 72 years ago. Nowadays, they have 1148 volunteers deployed in 25 stations all over the country

‘For 72 years now, a call to any member of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS) has been a call to action to the entire service. In those moments, members of the HGSS put their lives aside so that they can save others. That is why we don’t ask for cards and gifts on our birthday, but we do ask one thing of you: educate yourselves, inform yourselves and get yourselves appropriate equipment before going on an adventure in nature. It’s the best way to ensure we don’t meet. If you found yourselves in the thick of it anyway, you can count on us’, said the members of the HGSS on their birthday.

On this day 72 years ago, the Founding Assembly of the Mountain Rescue Service in Croatia was held in Zagreb. The idea of a team of volunteers saving lives is ingrained in each of the 1148 volunteers of the HGSS, deployed in 25 stations all over Croatia. They’re all committed to a single mission - prevention, education, rescue and search for the injured.

‘Since the service was established, the HGSS has participated in over 10,000 rescue missions. Last year alone, we carried out 754 rescue missions and 150 interventions. Our crews took part in 196 searches, 27 actions on water and 48 actions in ski resorts. In addition, at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, we faced the greatest tragedy since Croatia's independence: the disastrous Banovina earthquake. HGSS is still active in that area as an intervention force, and is a fundamental component of the civil protection system and a part of the Homeland Security system. We visited 1420 locations, conducted 2164 preventive visits, successfully carried out 683 high-altitude missions and 39 operations involving search teams with search dogs who located people and animals under the rubble’, said head of the HGSS Josip Granić.

‘Members of the HGSS are volunteers - primarily alpinists, but also speleologists, high-altitude mountain climbers and skiers trained in first aid and all mountain rescue techniques, including helicopter rescue, search operations in inaccessible terrain, and operations involving search dogs. They give their knowledge and precious time unconditionally and at any given moment in order to save the lives of others. People with big hearts and the wish to help others are the biggest treasure we have. Without them, there would be no HGSS. This is why we again appeal to all citizens and nature lovers - inform yourselves and gear up before an adventure in nature. Look after yourselves, and we’ll keep looking after you’, said Granić.

Happy birthday, HGSS, and thank you for all that you do!


Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Missing Person Peruća Lake: Body Found After Four Day Search

September 22, 2021 - The missing person Peruća Lake search sadly ended with the discovery of the body of Dominik Branimir Bilobrk who went missing last Saturday.

The four-day search for the 24-year-old Dominik Branimir Bilobrk sadly ended with the worst outcome possible.

As TV network RTL reports, police confirmed that the missing young man was found dead close to the place where he left to swim through Peruća lake, an artificial lake in Dalmatia. A little over an hour away from Split by car, Peruća is the third biggest lake in the entire country.

„The boat went to pull him over and bring him to land where investigation and identifying of the victim will take place. The family is already here. They await in sorrow“, said RTL on its website on Wednesday afternoon.

As Jutarnji List reported, Dominik Branimir Bilobrk from Obrovac Sinjski (half an hour drive away from Peruća) disappeared on Saturday. At the time of his disappearance, he wore short camo cargo pants, a short-sleeved black T-shirt, and black sneakers. The description said he was of „stringer physical build, “ and he drove away from his house in a Fiat brand car.

Big search for Bilobrk started on Monday morning around Peruća lake and its surroundings. Police, along with the Croatian Mountain Rescue (HGSS), from Split's station, and HGSS divers from across Croatia joined the search to find the missing 24-year-old. Dogs, drones and boats were used to find the missing young man. Along with professionals, ordinary citizens and Bilobrk's neighbors took part in the search too. Dogs, drones, and boats were used in hopes of finding the missing young man.

Following the interview of HGSS's search leader Ante Jukić, Slobodna Dalmacija wrote on Monday that both the car and the clothes dropped a kilometer away belonged to Bilobrk.

„Every eye on the field helps. The search is specific because we are on a suspected minefield, so we have to pay attention“, said Jukić on Monday, explaining how both civilians and professional troops must be careful in that area.
The finding of th clothes and cars shifted the focus of the search to the lake Peruća. Unfortunately, the search ended with a sad ending, as the exact reasons for Bilobrk's departure remain unknown., a governmental site where Croatians can report missing people, states that in the last 23 years, there have been more than 24 000 missing people reported.
The majority of these cases, around 70%, are related to the war in the 90s.

For more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Civil Protection Croatia: Conference on Crisis Efficiency Held in Vinkovci

September 20, 2021 - A civil protection Croatia conference titled "Civil Protection and City Security" analysed the response to the pandemic and the 2020 earthquakes in the country. Could the European PRAETORIAN Project make things better?

The pandemic and shocking earthquakes in 2020 showed in the most painful way possible how important civil protection is and how much Croatia still has to learn. That sais, there is no place for sorrow, as these topics now get more and more attention in public and relevant actors are on the go.

Earlier in September, the small but sweet town of Vinkovci in Slavonia was hosting the “Civil Protection and City Security“ conference to assess and address the relevant issues of civil protection. The conference organised a panel on the topic of civil protection and crisis management in which Krešimir Kuk (from the Croatian seismological service), Dragutin Repinc (from the Croatian War Veterans Ministry), Siniša Petkoviček (from the Croatian Firefighters' Community/HVZ), Davor Spevec (Civil Protection), Pavo Medved (Vukovar-Srijem County) and Josip Granić (the director of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service/HGSS), all took part.

In her opening remarks, Nataša Gajski Kovačić noted that the biggest problem in civil protection back when 2020's earthquakes struck was segments of systems being uncoordinated. The positive side, however, was the HGSS' level of efficiency in earthquake-damaged areas, rapid entrance to damaged sites, finding injured people and bodies, as well as the very quick organisation of help in removing dangerous parts of buildings and information distribution. This shouldn't come as a surprise with HGSS already being a very well loved and respected institution in Croatia.

The institution is respected both for its professional and efficient rescue missions and their edgy sense of humor as HGSS often posts sarcastic remarks to tourists who get in trouble while exploring Croatian mountains and nature without taking precautions. TCN had the chance to interview Josip Granić two days after the devastating earthquake in Petrinja at the very end of 2020.

The second day of the two-day conference moved from discussions to more specific plans of action when the ''Smart City and Crisis Management'' part presented the PRAETORIAN Project. Being an acronym for ''The protection of critical infrastructure from advanced combined cyber and physical threats'', the project's strategic goal is to increase the security and resilience level of critical European infrastructure (CI), facilitating coordinated protection of interrelated physical and cyber threats.

''The project will specifically tackle (i.e. prevent, detect, respond and, in the case of a declared attack, mitigate) human-made cyber and physical attacks or natural disasters affecting CIs. It will also address how an attack or incident in a specific CI can jeopardise the normal operation of other neighbouring/interrelated CIs, and how to make all of them more resilient by predicting cascading effects and proposing a unified response among CIs and assisting first responder teams. PRAETORIAN is a CI-led, user-driven project, which will demonstrate its results in three international pilot clusters. Some of them cross borders, involving 9 outstanding critical infrastructures: 2 international airports, 2 ports, 3 hospitals, and 2 power plants“, says the European Commission's website.

France is busy coordinating this project which started back in June and will last until the end of May 2023.

HGSS is, along with Zagreb Airport and the well known Croatian company Končar, one of the partners on the project.

With the hopes that the PRAETORIAN Project will help boost Croatian CI, making cities safer and more resilient to earthquakes various other threats, it's worth noting that Croatia already does enjoy a reputation for handling things well and insisting other countries solve their own problems. Look no further than smoke and fire - literally. Not only has Croatia learned how to handle its own troubles with wildfires, but it also helps others to do the same. Just this year, but Croatia sent its firefighters to assist Turkish colleagues and also sent several firefighting planes to Greece — earning international respect and expertise acknowledgment.

Not far from Vinkovci is Vukovar, and you can learn more about Croatia's Hero City in our TC guide.

For more about the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 30 August 2021

Mljet National Park Digital Maps to Provide Visitors with More Safety

August the 30th, 2021 - Mljet National Park digital maps which have been developed in cooperation with the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS) are set to provide the southern Dalmatian national park's many visitors with additional safety.

As Ljubica Vuko/Novac writes, riding along a picturesque eleven-kilometre-long bike path around the lakes, sailing on solar-powered catamarans while taking a panoramic ride, hiking and mountaineering along roads and recreational trails are just some of the ways to get better acquainted with the gorgeous Mljet National Park and enjoy the natural beauty of this area. Mljet National Park is the first Croatian national park ''at sea'' and is also the oldest marine protected area in the entire Mediterranean.

In line with the aim of protecting nature and sensitive ecosystems, NP Mljet has replaced its old diesel-powered boats with three solar-powered electric boats over the past few years, which take care of all of the transport of visitors across the lakes. Their purchase was co-financed in the amount of 80 percent by the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency, and thanks to EU grants allocated to them for a project aimed at improving the visitor infrastructure, enriching the quality and number of tourist, educational and recreational facilities of the park.

Among other things, a lookout on the top of Montokuc was constructed, a car park on Vrbovica was created, a presentation centre was constructed, and promenades and hiking trails were set up. And that's not all, there are even more activities within this EU project.

''We also renovated the road around the lake, which was in a very poor condition. It's now an ideal 11 km long bike path,'' said Ivan Srsen. Digital solutions that facilitate work in the national park, but also provide visitors with more opportunities, are also important in improving the visitor infrastructure.

Srsen added that ticket sales have now also been fully digitised, so that it can be known how many visitors are at a specific location at any given time. ''It's important for us to know that some locations may become overloaded. We digitised the sales process a few years ago, and now we’re perfecting it by doing a visitor management study. The results of the study will show how many visitors there may be at any given time in individual locations. So, we'll regulate their numbers if necessary,'' explained the director.

Visitors to the Mljet National Park usually come in group visits, but a large number of visitors come in their own organisation, as such, they devised a new project to give visitors ideas for tours and to make it easier for them to move around.

''This year, in cooperation with HGSS, we've created several recreational routes, and created Mljet National Park digital maps that will be available on the web application, which we plan to release at the end of September. For example, when you come to Pomena, you'll have a map of the national park and you'll see a route you can go around. Here you have a QR code that you scan and by navigating on your mobile phone you follow the route you've chosen,'' said Ivan Srsen.

There is also a shorter description of the trail on the brand new Mljet National Park digital map, such as the Pomena-Polace recreational trail which is 5 km long. Making sure your phone has enough battery power is necessary, and as some parts of NP Mljet don't have a mobile signal, users will need to make sure they scan the QR codes when in areas which are covered by mobile signal.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

President Zoran Milanović Holds Working Meeting With Croatian Mountain Rescue Reps

ZAGREB, 29 June, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović held a working meeting on Tuesday with members of the HGSS mountain rescue service, with its leaders informing him of the HGSS's structure and the way it provides assistance to people in areas affected by earthquakes and floods.

They also informed Milanović of the preparations for the tourism season, saying that each year, the HGSS has a large number of interventions, the President's Office said in a press release.

HGSS is a voluntary, non-profit, humanitarian, national service, it was said at the meeting. It conducts rescue operations but its mission also includes prevention and education. The service numbers 1,100 members, and they are all volunteers who annually conduct about 1,000 interventions throughout Croatia.

HGSS was founded in 1950 and it marks its day on 15 June, the Feast of St. Bernard, the patron saint of mountain climbers and mountain rescuers.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.



Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Croatian Mountain Rescue Service Book Presented by Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute in Gospić

May 16, 2021 - Suitable for the 30th anniversary of one beloved Croatian civil protection organisation, the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service book was presented by the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute based in Gospic.

With many tourists and visitors (and Croats too), not being too careful when going on ''their little adventures'' up mountains such as the Dinara, Velebit, or elsewhere, the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS) is as busy as Batman in Gotham. What with saving people who get lost, being bitten by poisonous animals that live on the mountains, or dealing with people who have hurt themselves in any way, they truly are praised as superheroes and are often the most beloved people on Croatian TV, either in commercials or when the press, telling their heroic tales.

Apart from mountains, their training was also shown to be useful for easing the numerous issues left following the 2020 earthquakes too.

Marking the 30 year anniversary of HGSS's station in Gospić, the Gospić Culture And Information Centre saw the presentation of the book ''The Day Replaced the Night, The Bura Wind Cleared Our View“ (Dan Je Zamijenio Noć, Bura Nam Očistila Pogled), last Friday. As reported by the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute website, the authors of this pop-science monograph are dr. Ivan Brlic, dr. Nikola Simunic and Dr. Anita Busljeta Tonkovic.

''The Gospic HGSS station, even though with a relatively small member count, operates on the biggest and toughest rescue surfaces in all of the Republic of Croatia. This monograph, through geographical, historical and sociological context, aims to explain how important, but also how difficult the mountain rescuer's job is. The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service book, covering over 150 pages in an honest and interesting way, shows why HGSS is one of the cornerstone operative forces of civil protection and that, in its professional, altruistic, and humane approach, contributes to the overall civil rescue system with the goal of saving human lives,'' they stated from the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute.

Apart from the authors of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service book themselves, the event saw HGSS Croatia's main man, Josip Granic, the director of the HGSS Gospic station, Josip Bozicevic, Deputy Interior Minister Damir Trust, as well as the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute Headmaster, Dr. Zeljko Holjevac sit down and speak. All of them agreed that this book is an important statement of gratefulness to HGSS members for all of the hard work they do.

The book is a product of the Ivo Pilar Institute's successful collaboration with the institutions in Gospic, and the wish for the further and deeper continuation of that cooperation was expressed too. In case of need, HGSS can be reached by calling 112. But, to prevent becoming yet another damsel (or a bachelor) in distress, it's not a bad idea to check their safety guidelines for enjoying the outdoors in Croatia.

Not to far from Gospic is the North Velebit National Park with its glorious mountains, about which you can learn more on our TC page.

For more about the Ivo Pilar Social research Institute in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

VIDEO: Spectacular Mountain Flight - Are Jet Packs The Future of HGSS?

September 30, 2020 – Incredible footage of mountain rescue paramedics trialling jet suits for future use in rapid first response. We spoke to the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service to get their verdict and ask if this will be part of the future of HGSS

Flying above incredible terrain not unlike that found around Lika and Velebit in Croatia, paramedics in the UK's Lake District have been videoed trialling jet suits. They could soon join regular mountain rescue services and air ambulance crews as part of any rapid first response required in difficult to reach places.

In Croatia, such tasks are undertaken by HGSS – the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, who TCN profiled not long ago. We again spoke to their head of service Josip Granić to ask if jet suits are part of the future of HGSS?

Are Jet Suits the future of HGSS?

“It looks interesting. And fun,” Granić told TCN. “I am sure that if it starts to become regular equipment used elsewhere it could make our job much easier and there will be a place for this in the future of HGSS.”

The benefits of jet suits being any part of the future of HGSS are obvious – they can locate and assist injured hikers or mountaineers in a fraction of the time of land-bound rescuers. The test flight footage shows the suit's inventor Richard Browning flying across the Langdale Pikes looking for walkers in a simulated casualty scenario. Within minutes, he locates a woman and child that would have taken rescuers on foot over one hour to find. But, although the future of HGSS could be assisted by such suits, mountain rescuers will surely not be the only ones to whom they are available.

“They will also create a completely new set of risks and potential accidents in more remote areas,” said Granić, with a cautionary tone. HGSS members are volunteers and already put themselves in considerable danger to assist those in need of help. Jet suits add an extra dimension of risk for anyone wearing them and the recreational use of jet suits could place further stress on the future of HGSS.

“I’m sure it will be a great tool once it’s out on the market,” says Granić, “but it could also be a great toy and that could be problematic because it will open up a completely new set of problems. But since we are the service for problem-solving, I’m sure that HGSS will find a way to deal with it.”

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Monday, 14 October 2019

Croatian Mountain Rescue Service Accepts Tetris Challenge from Army!

The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS), made up of volunteers who work hard and tirelessly rescuing would-be mountain climbers, Olympic swimmers and other unfortunate individuals who misjudged the height of that mountain or the distance between the mainland and a ''nearby'' island, have become somewhat well known for their sarcastic social media posts and their funny approach to life in general.

Over the last couple of years or so, HGSS has delighted those on social media with many amusing posts in their attempts to warn tourists from tackling mountains in mid August in flip flops, from getting carried away by a current when on giant pink flamingo inflatables, or from attempting to swim from island to island. The list goes on, and the team of volunteers has come face to face with both amusing scenarious and dangerous ones.

The main bulk of ''events'' take place during the summer tourist season, but HGSS are ready all year round to step in and save people from potentially dangerous situations across the entire country.

Now, as Morski writes on the 13th of October, 2019, the witty team of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service responded to a rather unusual tetris challenge from pilots and technicians from the Croatian Army after they had done it with the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter.

''Our most valuable equipment is our 1,000 volunteers, and our best drive is... our legs,'' the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service wrote on their official Facebook profile, where they posted two photos.

On one, they are in a "tetris" position, on the other, there is both equipment displayed with a symbolism which means that they are ready to do their praiseworthy jobs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days of the year.

This interesting challenge was apparently initially created by employees from the Directorate of Civil Protection at the Ministry of the Interior (MUP).

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for more.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

HGSS to Tourists: We've Been Messing with Natural Selection Since 1950

The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS) has become very well known over the last couple of years for their amusing, sarcastic social media posts aimed at foreign tourists visiting Croatia who fancy themselves as mountain climbers, hikers and long distance swimmers during the sweltering July and August heat.

While HGSS's reign has mainly been on Facebook and Twitter, with numerous funny, perhaps slightly passive aggressive posts from the team of tireless volunteers who save many a foreign tourists from sticky situations which could have ended horribly each and every year, it seems that they've taken to new extremes when it comes to issuing their comedy-clad warnings.

Taking special aim at their favourite selection of people, those in flip-flops, HGSS has decided to go one step further than social media, and has placed giant billboards along busy main roads to warn would-be bravehearts against being heroes.

As Morski writes on the 3rd of July, 2019, HGSS doesn't just post comical statuses and photos, but saves hundreds of lives per year, particularly during the height of the summer tourist season, and also invests heavily in prevention. What better way to prevent a potentially horrendous accident or death than with enormous billboards and signs placed along the roads used by hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists who have driven to Croatia for their holidays?

"Dear tourists, we have been messing with natural selection since 1950, at least you could play along and take care of yourselves and others," reads the poster, accompanies by an illustration of a well-trained and properly equipped hiker, with the more serious statement included, that clothing for such ventures should ideally be watertight.

On the other billboard, a very simple message for would-be summer "hikers" reads: "We respect you, please respect yourselves and hike responsibly." Along with a drawing of water bottles, battery lamps and fully charged mobile phone batteries.

Follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Monday, 1 July 2019

HGSS Rescues Two Tourists, Writes Sarcastic Facebook Status

The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS) is known for its amusing and rather sarcastic posts and images on social media aimed at tourists who fancy having a crack at tackling mountains like Sv. Ilija in a pair of cheap flip flops, attempting to swim to ''nearby'' islands that are a lot further away from the mainland than they first appear, or having a go at mountain climbing up Biokovo or Velebit at 14:00 on a boiling hot August day with all but a half filled bottle of Jana water.

The height of the tourist season in Croatia has only just begun, and with that, the tireless group of volunteers which make up the body of HGSS have started to receive calls, mainly from foreign tourists who underestimated the power of nature, not to mention the strength of the summer sunshine, and grossly overestimated their physical abilities.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 1st of July, 2019, HGSS's Gospić station recently announced on their Facebook page that they have successfully managed to rescue two foreigners. The post doesn't mention which country the unfortunate pair come from.

"During the evening hours, two foreign nationals were rescued from the rocks above the bay of Zavratnica... try to guess which footwear they were wearing!" writes HGSS in a Facebook post which was consequently commented on by numerous people taking guesses, with the notorious flip flop being the most likely culprit.

Otherwise, HGSS has recently warned would-be adventurers that they absolutely must have the minimal equipment with them at least, such as more than enough water, a proper lamp or torch, and a full battery.

In addition, with their typically comical statuses and various creative signs, HGSS warned foreign tourists strictly against using summer footwear, such as flip flops, for mountaineering. Of course, many don't bother to take heed or listen and thus increase their chances of needing to be rescued by the good people of HGSS.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

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