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PDC: A Global Partner in Disaster Risk Reduction


July 5, 2016


With support from U.S. civil and military organizations, PDC has been providing technical assistance in disaster management to foreign governments for nearly 20 years. Above, PDC was invited to meet with officials in Nicaragua to consider providing technical assistance to national Civil Defense authorities and other disaster management organizations in the country.

The “Ring of Fire” encircling the Pacific is a 25,000-mile trail of volcanos, major seismic activity, and—on land and underseagaping trenches. The same islands and continental coasts that are exposed to the geological hazards of the Ring of Fire—earthquake, volcano, tsunami—are also disaster-prone in other ways. These areas are exposed to tropical cyclones (storms, hurricanes, typhoons) and storm surges; also, since coasts are lower relative to inland areas, they often flood in wet seasons. Additionally, many of the most at-risk islands and Pacific coasts are becoming heavily populated metropolises, increasing disaster risk by moving more people into hazardous places.

This is the “neighborhood” surrounding the headquarters of Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), which is located on the island of Maui, in the Central Pacific. When PDC opened in 1996, its official area of responsibility already included the “Pacific and beyond.” The Center was established to share in the mandate of an array of U.S. Government agencies led by the humanitarian assistance units of Department of Defense and the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). That mandate has three components: “save lives, alleviate human suffering, and reduce the economic and social impact of humanitarian emergencies worldwide.”

Naturally, neighbors help neighbors in need, but it’s more than neighborliness when PDC undertakes disaster risk reduction projects. These activities, carried out first in Hawaii, then around the Pacific, and throughout the world today, are the very reason for the existence of PDC.  

In 2016, while assisting with response activities for specific events, PDC is working to enhance the disaster management capacity of countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and is exploring options for providing meaningful support to countries in Europe, where U.S. foreign disaster assistance began more than a century ago. When PDC projects are conducted under USAID funding, the materials produced include the slogan “from the American people.” In fact, PDC is a quintessentially American organization, always representing the compassion that is a hallmark of this country and always hoping to be of service to neighbors in need, worldwide. 

PDC outreach in support of foreign disaster management efforts has included working with (top left and right) the island nations of the Caribbean (since 2002) on a decision support system and in Thailand (starting in 2005) recovering from the Great Sumatra Earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami; (bottom left and right) Vietnam (2004 and ongoing) on best practices in disaster management and across Latin American and the Caribbean on disaster preparedness (2013 and ongoing). 

Related articles:

  • The USGS map of the Ring of Fire
  • PDC-opening era described
  • The story of PDC’s mission
  • A 20-year Journey of Hope (PDC)
  • 2014 story about support to Thailand
  • 2013 story about support to Vietnam
  • 2015 story about support to Peru
  • The index of stories on PDC activities

More from Pacific Disaster Center

To keep yourself up-to-the-minute about hazards and disasters:

For the latest Weather and Disaster News, use the PDC Weather Wall.

While you are thinking of hazards, think of preparedness. PDC provides disaster preparedness information, including printable instructions for assembling a Disaster Supply Kit and rehearsing a Family Disaster Plan.

For more information on DisasterAWARE products:

  • For details, see the Training Guide for Web-accessible Disaster Alert,
  • Read and understand more about custom versions, such as DMRS and VinAWARE,
  • Watch the ASEAN DMRS video on YouTube.

About PDC:

Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) envisions a safer, more secure world—where populations live in more disaster-resilient communities informed by science and technology, and equipped with sound decision support tools. To help make that vision a reality, PDC is dedicated to supporting evidence-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts by providing actionable information and applications to the public and disaster managers worldwide. PDC, a program managed by the University of Hawaii, was established by the U.S. government in 1996.