The civil protection system must ensure the safety of people, the environment and property in the event of a disaster or the threat of a disaster. Several state and local government institutions, as well as society as a whole, are responsible for the implementation of appropriate measures. The implementation of the objectives of civil protection requires the coordination of the activities of all involved parties, information about possible risks, resources and the ability to act effectively. The use of the latest technologies, science and universities play an important role in identifying sources of potential risk, creating a management system and preparing society for action in crisis situations.

At the invitation of the Latvian Academy of Sciences (LZA), representatives of the Ministries of Defense, Interior and Health, as well as universities, met in a joint discussion at the University of Latvia (LU) Academic Centre on the tasks of developing the civil protection system, which has become particularly important both after the experience during the years of the COVID-19 and after Russian aggression in Ukraine. The discussion was opened by journalist Māris Zanders, inviting its participants to assess the readiness of society to act and the cooperation of various institutions in possible new, perhaps even unknown crisis situations.

"UL as a university of science can help by improving the content of studies and purposefully developing new technologies for defense needs", said UL Rector professor Indriķis Muižnieks. The rector informed that the students of the UL are already studying the mandatory civil defense course. However, it is only in the amount of one credit point and provides mostly theoretical knowledge. The rector of the UL outlined the problem: "Students express their desire to acquire knowledge not only theoretically, but also practically, but universities do not have suitable facilities or landfills for this. The question arises here, whether any of the state bodies, such as the Ministry of Defense, is ready to help practically in the organization of training for thousands of students". The students' interest in the discussed issue was confirmed by the presence and participation in the discussion by representatives of the UL Student Council.

Aigars Mikiško, Director of the Crisis Management Department of the Ministry of Defense, Mārtiņš Baltmanis, Deputy Chief of the State Fire and Rescue Service, and Liene Cipule, Director of the Emergency Medical Service, using examples gained from experience, described the directions of action where better coordination is needed and possible closer cooperation between science institutions, state institutions and municipalities in order to increase Latvia's readiness to prevent crises and disasters. It is necessary not only to coordinate development plans, but also to attract funding for increasing the capacity of training courses and infrastructure, in order to ensure the involvement of scientific potential for risk mitigation. Experts admitted that in Latvia, much more funds are still spent on preventing the consequences of crises than on preparing people and infrastructure for possible crises, and this "proportion" should be changed.

The Director of the Security and Strategic Research Center of the Latvian National Defense Academy, UL professor Toms Rostoks, and the Head of the Latvian Cardiology Center of the Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital, UL professor Andrejs Ērglis recognized the need for improvements in public education, technical preparation of universities and medical institutions, so that "it is clear to everyone what are their responsibilities in a crisis situation, what decisions should be made and how to act". Member of the National Security Council of Latvia, doctor-neurosurgeon, doctor of medical sciences, Romualds Ražuks and director of UL Riga Medical College Aksels Roshofs emphasized that it is necessary to improve the content of study programs, to organize training courses not only for students, but also for broad groups of society. In order to implement it, the "state order" is essential - what, to what extent, how often, how and for whom we prepare, which are the most important educational groups, etc.

"Only if the entire society knows what to do in a specific situation, that is, whether it is possible to prevent the risk or reduce its effect, then we can say that the risk management system is effective. Until the awareness that this is important is not formed in the society, nothing will happen," said the Head of the UL Administration, Andris Sarnovičs. The importance of each decision was also emphasized by the president of LZA, professor Ivars Kalviņš: "The things we teach people at all levels before the crisis, that is how they will act and make decisions. First of all, the "head" should be trained - heads of state and institutions, heads of local governments, company heads. Many people think that they know how to act in crisis situations, but when one actually comes, it turns out that there is no knowledge or it is not enough."

Experts emphasized the creation of new technologies and the transfer of knowledge as a supportable contribution of science to risk management. The director of the Institute of Electronics and Computer Sciences, Modris Greitāns, informed that robots are already being developed that are able to sense minimal signs of life under the ruins of buildings or through the walls of buildings, thus notifying rescuers about the location of potential victims. Such technologies would have been extremely useful in the rescue efforts in Turkey after the recent earthquake. Close cooperation between scientists and civil defense, including military, specialists is necessary to make the inventions usable in a real crisis situation.

The discussion will continue with the participation of the Association of Local Governments of Latvia and employers' organizations. At the end of it, it is expected to develop a specific action proposal for the thematic committee of the Civil Defense and Disaster Management System of the Cabinet of Ministers.