NHA TRANG, Vietnam -- Experts from the U.S. Navy, several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and Vietnamese Disaster Relief professionals gathered to discuss Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) at a symposium during a Pacific Partnership (2018) mission stop at Khanh Hoa University May 23.
The symposium’s topics included disaster response and incident management systems, communication factors, interoperability between NGOs and governmental organizations, and the dangers of flooding and landslides.
There are, on average, two massive disasters per year that require HA/DR response in the Indo Pacific. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, HA/DR operations have attracted the attention of the global community as a non-traditional security issue. Building capabilities, interoperability and a conceptual framework for participation in these operations has become paramount to the affected countries.
“The ability to save lives and mitigate the effects of natural disasters requires the synchronization of local, regional and national governments,” said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, Commander Task Force 73. “Many times during crisis all we have is minutes to respond to calls for assistance. Teams need to know each other, trust each other, and work efficiently together to save lives and make a difference for the people we serve.”
Gabrielson went on to explain two key factors when considering Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response: the ability to save lives after the disaster and the fact that disaster recovery takes a long time.
The work completed during exercises like Pacific Partnership lays the groundwork for multi-lateral cooperation during events that require weeks and months to solve but only give responders days in which to prepare.
“Recovery efforts require many different things,” Gabrielson continued. “The right kind of construction techniques for buildings, the right kind of procedures for evacuation, and the right kinds of preparation in order to receive people at safe places. But most importantly, we must make the effort to build a foundation for recovery personnel to be able to use these resources effectively.”
Gabrielson explained that, in the end, the most important thing we can do when trying to save lives is to prevent losing them in the first place.
PP18 personnel have visited and exchanged ideas with professionals in Bengkulu, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Trincomalee, Sri Lanka prior to arriving in Nha Trang. After departing Vietnam, USNS Mercy will make mission stops in Japan strengthening alliances, partnerships, and multilateral cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral disaster response preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. This year's mission includes military and civilian personnel from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Peru, and Japan.
Pacific Partnership 2018 consists of more than 800 U.S. and partner nation military and civilian personnel working side-by-side with host nation counterparts to be better prepared for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.