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NEWS | Aug. 26, 2014

Fifth Annual Disaster Relief Exercise Closes in Bangladesh

By Ms. Angela Kershner USARPAC

The fifth annual Pacific Resilience Disaster Relief Exercise and Exchange (PR DREE) drew to an end during a closing ceremony at the Lakeshore Hotel in Dhaka Thursday.

His Excellency Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury, Minister of Disaster Management and Relief, officially closed PR DREE 2014 following remarks by Brig. Gen. Abu Sayeed Khan, Director General of the Plans and Operations Directorate for the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division, and Maj. Gen. Gary M. Hara, Deputy Command of U.S. Army Pacific. The Honorable Dan Mozena, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh was also in attendance.

"I am highly convinced that [PR DREE 2014] will wield enough benefit in order to strengthen our capacity to face and mitigate the earthquake threat within Dhaka city," said Chowdhury. "This exercise has brought all the major stakeholders at the common platform and understanding involving organizations of national and international level."

Led by AFD and USARPAC, PR DREE involves the critical support of numerous civilian institutions. Without civil-military interoperability, disaster management will be slower and less effective. The PR DREE 2014 aims to unite all necessary stakeholders to ensure disaster management is maximized through effective engagement, planning and practice. Through this coordination and management, all responders will be more prepared to counter the impacts a large-scale earthquake that may affect Bangladesh.

The four-day event included presentations by Subject Matter Experts, a Table Top Exercise (TTX), a Field Training Exercise (FTX) and an extensive After Action Review (AAR). PR DREE is structured to increase disaster preparedness, response capabilities and civilian-military coordination in the face of just a large scale natural disaster. The TTX and FTX exercised plans, equipment and personnel between Bangladesh, the U.S. and numerous IGOs and NGOs, increasing readiness for earthquake response and recovery in Dhaka. Ministries, utility companies, media, military, international organizations and numerous other entities sent representatives to participate, building the relationships that will be necessary in any disaster.

"Bringing together diverse governmental agencies and military capabilities to work closely on a range of shared interests helps to ensure that the execution of disaster response is both unified and swift," said Hara.

Approximately 100 civil and military stakeholders participated in the TTX on Tuesday at the Fire Service and Civil Defence Training Academy. Participants were presented with the exercise scenario: a magnitude 7.1 earthquake taking place on the Madhupur fault line, directly affecting Dhaka city. Were such a large scale earthquake to hit Dhaka, the most populous city in Bangladesh and one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it is estimated that 70,000 buildings would collapse, causing the death, injury and entrapment of thousands of people.

The TTX familiarized participants with the earthquake scenario, their various roles and responsibilities, and the primary themes of the event: logistics and communication. The FTX began Tuesday afternoon and continued into Wednesday, testing personnel in the field at an operational and tactical level. Hundreds of personnel and volunteers plugged into the various coordination nodes dealing with everything from utility services to dead body management to communication.

"This week you increased earthquake preparedness, and response capabilities by evaluating the Standing Order on Disasters and the draft Dhaka City Earthquake Contingency Plan," said Hara. "You paid particular attention to the reception and utilization of logistics critical to the relief effort and as a result of this training, we are closer to maximizing the interoperability between the Armed Forces Division, the U.S. Embassy, the Ministry of Disaster Management & Relief and others."

After two days of exercises, stakeholders gathered for an extensive AAR prior to the closing ceremony. To ensure that preparedness is an ongoing effort, participants examined issues, concerns, and gaps that need to be addressed before or during next year's PR DREE.

"We are looking forward to keep going with this type of exercises initiatives and interactions more and more in the future," said Khan. "Your contribution, intellectual ideas and support will be noted highly in our institutional memory."

PR DREE provides a platform for collaboration in order to build upon existing partner nation capacity and enhance the U.S. government's readiness and preparedness to provide aid for all-hazards. The more opportunity there is for this type of interaction, then the more successful both the United States and Bangladesh will be in our collective emergency response efforts.

Khan closed his remarks with traditional Bangladesh words of wisdom: "It is said, no disaster can say that there will be no blessings in future, and no blessings can say there will be no disasters in future."

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