Not ‘going it alone,’ 18 nations join forces in major disaster response exercise

August 2, 2019
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Not ‘going it alone,’ 18 nations join forces in major disaster response exercise
August 2, 2019

In a show of global cooperation, 18 nations came together alongside several international organizations for one of the most ambitious combined disaster response exercises in Southeast Asia to date. Countries from Europe, Asia, Oceania, and North America participated from their home soil to test communications capabilities and standard operating procedures (SOPs). The exercise simulated a magnitude 8.9 megathrust earthquake and tsunami event in the Indian Ocean; recalling the actual earthquake and tsunami event that took place in 2004. During the 2004 quake—an event that will forever be imprinted in the hearts and minds of the world—a series of tsunami waves reaching heights of 100 feet leveled the city of Banda Aceh to rubble and claimed the lives of more than 100,000 in Indonesia alone. The destruction continued outward as waves rolled over coastlines into Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka, ultimately taking more than 230,000 lives in total.

Based out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) communications and staffing exercise (COMMEX/STAFFEX) took place on July 29-August 2, 2019. The exercise was sponsored by the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting – Plus (ADMM-Plus). ADMM-Plus is an organization of the militaries of the 10 ASEAN member nations and 8 “Plus” countries—along with intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations—which appoint standing experts’ working groups (EWGs) to advance partnerships on specific defense issues including HA/DR. Malaysia and the United States are the co-chairs of the current three-year EWG humanitarian assistance work plan and chose to partner with the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) to help support the effort.

During the exercise, humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR) organizations, representing multiple sectors including regional and national actors like the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance (AHA) Centre and the United Nations, worked together to exercise skills, communications, training, and technology. “This exercise is the culminating event of the EWG, designed to test standard procedures for how ASEAN and Plus militaries will support civil authorities during an extreme event like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,” said Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) Liaison and Exercise Lead Jared Batzel on PDC’s supporting role during the exercise. PDC was requested by the ADMM-Plus Secretariat to help develop the scenario, script, and communication for the exercise using its early warning, hazard monitoring, and decision support platform, DisasterAWARE.

“This is a very dynamic mission, as we gather up all the experts to come together to pursue a solution to a complex problem,” said Royal Malaysian Navy First Admiral Chan Peng Cheong, Assistant Chief of Staff and exercise director. “So that, when the disaster happens, it will definitely reduce the severity of the impact. This is why we are here.”

According to Jenifer E. Smoak, Senior Director, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, United States Department of Defense and United States ADMM-Plus EWG on HADR Co-Chair, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami generated heightened international focus on the need for coordinated communication, disaster response, and relief globally. “Bringing together both ASEAN Member States and dialogue partners, the ADMM-Plus forum is a unique opportunity to share our collective expertise and experience to advance ASEAN HADR capabilities in a practical manner,” said Smoak.

According to the AHA Centre’s Executive Director, Adelina Kamal, the AHA Centre has been, from inception, a central force within the region to advance cooperation on disaster response. “This HA/DR Exercise sponsored by ADMM-Plus is testimony to how far we’ve all come in civil-military coordination for disaster response since the 2004 tsunami,” said Kamal. She continued, “We will not let our guard down, but instead continue our work with the same level of vigilance to ensure we achieve the ‘One Asean—One Response’ vision; ready to face the many challenges ahead including emerging threats from climate change and other potential manmade disasters.” Indonesia’s national disaster management organization Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB) supported the sentiments of the AHA Centre. Dr. Agus Wibowo, Head of Data, Information, and Public Relations for BNPB said, “This exercise is of critical importance as it not only allows us to put to the test our InAWARE system, but the standard operating procedures we’ve worked so hard over the last five years to institutionalize and adopt at the national level.”

PDC’s Director of Global Operations Dr. Erin Hughey, echoed Ms. Kamals’ sentiments by congratulating everyone involved in the exercise, which she described as very multi-faceted. “It’s a level of response and cooperation we’ve all be working towards, and through this exercise are successfully and confidently able to say we can achieve should an unfortunate, real-world event of this great magnitude take place once again. In the twenty-first century, nations can no longer afford to go it alone.”

ADMM-Plus Exercise 2019

What our partners are saying about us...

Title Address Description
Kenta Hamasaki
Honolulu, HI, USATHE CONSULATE GENERAL OF JAPAN, HONOLULU, HI (2016)

"Aloha Julie. Hello. After the registration [for DisasterAWARE], I started to receive warnings such as Typhoon Meranti. That data contains necessary info and is so graphic that it's easy to know at a glance how the impact is. This is very important for our duties. Thank you again."

Paulo Bayly
FijiPERMANENT SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF INFRASTRUCTURE & TRANSPORT, FIJI (2016)

"Thank you and your team for so quickly responding to our needs."

Ana Ake
TongaMINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS, KINGDOM OF TONGA (2017)

"I was first introduced to EMOPS (DisasterAWARE)...during a HA/DR training in Auckland this year. I've worked with several tools and it is obvious that EMOPS is the only sustainable tool that is available and is openly available."

Jonathan Colwell
California, USAGOESPATIAL COORDINATOR, DHS-FEMA REGION 9 (2016)

"EMOPS (DisasterAWARE) made my day so much easier while monitoring [Tropical Cyclone] AMOS. Data that I thought I'd spend a good part of the morning digging for was available, as were the tools to draw polygons and annotate and meet the requirement."

John Andoe
Texas, USAEMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR, TEXAS HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (2017)

“Keep up the good work. I'm using EMOPS (DisasterAWARE) in Texas to monitor Hurricane Harvey.”

Matt Lott
Virginia, USAEMERGENCY COORDINATOR OF SAFETY, SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (2016)

"I work for the Virginia DOT as an emergency planner. I would like to be added to your distribution list for awareness products. I followed work during Hurricane Mathew and would like to avail our organization of your great products."

USDA Foreign Agriculture Service officer
Washington, DC, USAUSDA (2016)

"Your suggestion that we look at PDC content and capabilities has really paid off. We partnered with them, and are ingesting their global disaster feeds into [Global Agricultural & Disaster Assessment System] GADAS. The addition of a couple of our own applications to quickly delineate impacted areas and extract agricultural acreage and population has proved quite valuable."

Christopher Vaughan
500 C St SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA

FEMA NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS GEOSPATIAL INFORMATION OFFICER (2015)

"My sincerest thanks to the PDC team during this event. [Tropical Cyclone Dolphin] Your professionalism and dedication to the mission is to be commended. I'm sure we will have plenty to discuss/improve upon in the weeks to follow. Thanks again for all the support. Great job team."

Daniel B. Whitley
1400 Independence Ave SW #5071, Washington, DC 20250, USAACTING ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR, FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL SERVICE (2017)

"On behalf of USDA's Foreign Agricultural Services, I would like to express my appreciation and full support of the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) for its essential contributions...with data and support...we've been able to improve our global agricultural production and disaster assessment analyses, products, and decision outcomes."

Jesse Rozelle
500 C St SW, Washington, DC 20024, USAPROGRAM MANAGER, NATURAL HAZARDS RISK ASSESSMENT PROGRAM, FEMA (2017)

"Aloha PDC team: I wanted to express my sincere gratitude for all of your support during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The modeling and risk assessment support you have provided to FEMA has been incredibly helpful for our response efforts and our emergency management partners. I'm looking forward to a continued partnership."

Lisa Samson on PDC products during hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria
Miami, FL, USA

ASSISTANT DEPUTY DIRECTOR, EXERCISES & COALITION AFFAIRS, U.S. SOUTHCOM (2017)

"[I] wanted to pass along that the reports that PDC is generating are succinct and extremely informative. I've passed along to other colleagues in the HQs staff and other COCOMs to peak their interest. Well done!"

William I. Clark
9301 NW 33rd St, Doral, FL 33178, USA

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE DIVISION CHIEF, U.S. SOUTHCOM (2017)

"Our success during response efforts is directly related to PDC's contribution. The set of tools offered by your decision support system (DisasterAWARE), the large amount of data, the modeling and assessments, and skill set of your staff are unique. They provide my team with great situational awareness in a timely manner, enabling rapid and informed decision making in critical periods."

Brian Abbott
Doral, FL, USALIEUTENANT COLONEL, PUBLIC-PRIVATE COOPERATION PROGRAM COORDINATOR, U.S. SOUTHCOM (2016)

"As a Public-Private Cooperation (PPC) Program Coordinator, PDC's vision and leadership translates into strategies that enable others to effectively achieve results."

Gayle Outten-Moncour
The Bahamas

BAHAMAS DISASTER RECOVERY MANAGER AND FIRST ASSISTANT SECRETARY

Jeremy K. Delancy
Nassau, The Bahamas

SENIOR ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF SOCIAL SERVICES & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS (2016)

"I wanted [PDC] to know that I used DisasterAWARE during Hurricane Joaquin and it performed admirably. Some further training will be needed for us to use it to its full capabilities. One of the persons who was quite impressed is Chief Meteorological Officer, Mr. Arnold King."

Carolann Albury
E Bay St, Nassau, The Bahamas

DIRECTOR, BAHAMAS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (2017)

"…thank you all for the assistance you have rendered on so many occasions to The BNGISC but more importantly to The Bahamas."

Marcus Elten
New York, NY, USAUNITED NATIONS OCHA (2016)

"I was impressed with how quickly you guys developed situational awareness products...quite impressed with your team's work."

Claudia Mateo
Dominican RepublicPRESIDENT, REPUBLICA DOMINCANA COMISIÓN NACIONAL DE ENERGÍA

"Thank you for being aware of our situation and for the sending of images for analysis."

Paul Ugarte
GuatemalaCONRED SPECIAL ADVISOR TO THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF GUATEMALA

Eric Yarrell
Comayagua, Honduras

LIEUTENANT COLONEL, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE, JTF-BRAVO (2017)

"JTF-Bravo sincerely appreciated the HADR decision-support information provided by the Pacific Disaster Center during Hurricane Irma response… has been both timely and valuable support of current operations."

Augusto Moreno O'Phelan
PeruDIRECTOR GENERAL FOR POLICY AND STRATEGY, MINISTRY OF DEFENSE, PERU (2016)

"Many thanks for your important information about the ongoing outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas."

Mr. Eliezer Serrano, Jr.
Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, BrazilLEAD DATA FUSION MANAGER, U.S. SOUTHCOM JOINT OPERATIONS CENTER (2016)

PDC's support in the SOUTHCOM region and its commitment to promote public safety were unfailing during the Rio Olympics. [DisasterAWARE] greatly enhanced our situational awareness and offered an abundance of useful data and safety monitoring information."

Don Price
Myanmar (Burma)DISASTER MANAGEMENT ADVISOR, U.S. FOREST SERVICE, MYANMAR (2017)

"The big floods in Southern China are causing some real problems for Vietnam and Myanmar and DMRS/EMOPS (DisasterAWARE) is the best visualization for this regional flood situation."

Susan Cruz
PhilippinesDIRECTOR, OFFICE OF CIVIL DEFENSE (2015)

"We are very appreciative of your support to our country."

Giuseppe Timperio
21 Lower Kent Ridge Rd, Singapore 119077RESEARCH ENGINEER, ADVANCED SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT & HUMANITARIAN LOGISTICS, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE (2016)

"I knew of 'InAWARE' and I am impressed by its capabilities. Information sharing in the humanitarian context is still a big challenge (especially in ASEAN), and the efforts you are putting to close this gap are highly appreciated, and indeed highly useful for the whole humanitarian community."

Dr. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho
Matraman, East Jakarta City, Jakarta 13120, Indonesia

HEAD OF DATA, INFORMATION, AND PUBLIC RELATIONS FOR INDONESIA'S NATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT AGENCY, BNPB

Harlan V. Hale
Banten, IndonesiaREGIONAL ADVISOR, USAID/DCHA/OFDA/EAP

"From a disaster management perspective, these agencies [PDC, HOT, PetaBencana.id] have combined their skills, have worked well together, and have created something that is really innovative, useful, and can actually improve both the disaster response by the government and citizen's participation in it as well."

Willem Rampangilei
Jl. Anyar No.12, RT.2/RW.1, Leuwinutug, Kec. Citeureup, Bogor, Jawa Barat 16810, IndonesiaCHIEF, BNPB

"As I mentioned when we met recently at BNPB HQ Jakarta, I want to extend my appreciation to you, to your colleagues at PDC, and to USAID/OFDA for your hard work and dedication – and for your tangible results – in building capabilities and capacities for disaster risk reduction in Indonesia, especially in the area of hazard monitoring and early warning."

Dr. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho
West Java, IndonesiaHEAD OF DATA, INFORMATION, AND PUBLIC RELATIONS, BNPB (2017)

"Thank you very much for your support in Mt Agung eruption. Very useful to us."