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    2021 Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange places emphases on dual disasters

    Bangladesh host 2021 Disaster Response Exercise & Exchange

    Photo By John Hughel | U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Denise Phillips, a delegate from the Oregon National...... read more read more

    DHAKA, BANGLADESH - Sitting where three tectonic plates meet, Bangladesh is one of the most active seismic regions in the world, with the Earthquake Disaster Risk Index ranking Dhaka among the 20 highest cities at risk on the planet. The 2021 Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange (DREE) held here from October 26 to 28, focused on the dual disasters of earthquake management during pandemic conditions.

    More than 300 representatives of 147 organizations and nearly 30 countries participated in this year’s three-day conference and tabletop exercise. Attendees included representatives from government, military, and non-government agencies listening to subject matter experts address and interact with DREE participants.

    “Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and in the past cyclones and floods affected our country severely, and were many lives were lost,” said Brigadier General Md Golam Faruque, Director, Bangladesh Military Operations Army Headquarters, during the opening of DREE 2021. “Over the years, our nation has made significant progress in the preparations in the face of disaster management and has been recognized worldwide.”

    Prior to Bangladesh’s independence in 1972, the Bhola Cyclone two years before still ranks as the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded and one of the world's deadliest natural disasters, claiming over 500,000 lives. “The nation has made critical changes over the past 50 years with Cyclone shelters and investments in other protective infrastructure projects and preparedness measures,” said Gen. Farugue.

    Abdullah Al Arif, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief emphasized this point, during his presentation on the opening day, noting that the Asia and the Pacific region is globally positioned to natural disasters. “A person living in the area is 4 times more at risk than those in Africa and 25 times more than in Europe or North America to environmental adversities.”

    The DREE concentrated on earthquake preparedness, as Bangladesh is vulnerable to seismic activity of the Indian Plate, the Eurasian Plate, and the Burmese Plate: each able to generate a massive earthquake in the region. In his prepared summary for the DREE conference, Mr. Al Arif stated that a 7.0 earthquake or higher around Dhaka City would need international assistance in the immediate aftermath, with more than 50% of the buildings being in jeopardy of collapsing.

    “The government of Bangladesh has made significant achievements in Earthquake management such as guideline regulations, risk identification, community building and engagement of volunteers,” he said, “We should continue to work as a ‘Whole of Society approach,’ towards building an earthquake resilient nation.”

    In his opening remarks, Dr. Md Enamur Rahman, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief said that 2.4 million people were evacuated within just one day during super-cyclone Amphan in 2020 to many of these cyclone shelters while overseeing mitigation procedures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “Larger scale disasters like earthquakes are due to the country’s location and history of devastating events,” he said, noting that nearly 50 earthquakes on a smaller scale have occurred in the region over the past six years. “This reminds us to make the necessary enhancements for response and risk reduction.”

    Learning from recent disaster response efforts and sharing best practices is one of the fundamental objectives with the annual DREE meetings. With the theme of this year’s conference being “Resilience Through Preparedness,” Mr. Richard Ragan, the World Food Program (WFP) director for Bangladesh, addressed readiness as a key factor with the recent 7.8 Earthquake that struck neighboring Nepal in April 2015.

    The WFP established a Humanitarian Staging Area just one month before the earthquake next to Kathmandu airport in Nepal. Regan said that this staging area assisted survivors to receive emergency supplies much faster, especially with Nepal being a land-locked country.

    “We saw how essential this was for the movement of supplies in and out of the country,” he said, noting each nation in the region has different constraints. “In creating humanitarian staging areas for earthquakes, we are doing the same thing in Bangladesh by preposition supplies near the airport.”

    Regan said that this allows survivors to receive emergency supplies much faster than waiting until disaster strikes. “Having that key intimate command surge capacity organized, and in-place with people and supplies is critical.”

    In summarizing the need for food assistance, Regan compared the total United Nations annual spending of approximately 50 Billion in U.S. Dollars for Humanitarian assistance, development and peacekeeping work.

    “Nearly 9 Billion dollars a year is spent for food around the world for disaster response each year,” he said. “We have an entry point into nearly every household in a crisis because we all have to eat.”

    This year DREE was conducted in reduced size in Dhaka city due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the 10th annual engagement between the Government of Bangladesh and the United States Army Pacific. Bangladesh is also affiliated with the Oregon National Guard under the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.

    Oregon Air National Guard Chief Master Sgt. Denise Phillips represented the U.S. military for the DREE, speaking on Gender and Vulnerable populations during a pandemic. She said that even with the limited size for this year’s DREE, she came away from the experience motivated about the future for women in Bangladesh.

    “The biggest takeaway for me were the conversations that took place with younger people after the presentation and question and answer session,” she explained. “The effects of the pandemic have created economic stress in families, especially toward women, but I found that there are real pathways of change and pathways of hope with this next generation.”

    Being able to meet in person allows for these types of interaction during breaks or as the day's presenters conclude formal remarks. For Phillips it provided an opportunity for meaningful and in-depth conversations.

    “These younger people are eager to make a difference,” she said. “Helping to open that dialogue for future leaders who want to be part of effecting change was inspiring on many levels. This was a meaningful opportunity to allow them to open up and also not feel alone.”

    On the second day, attention shifted to experience sharing from other countries before breaking into 13 different focused groups for a table-top exercise based on a 6.8 earthquake scenario in Dhaka city. At the conclusion of the day, each group presented their reports to all the participants, helping bridge some of the major issues where each group can help support other agencies in a real natural disaster response.

    On the final day of DREE 2021, Mr. Nathan Rodgers from the Institute for Security Governance in the United States led an After Action Review of many of the significant accomplishments from the presentations and table-top exercise.

    “When we talk about benefits for events like the DREE we talk a great deal about building trust, or the expression we like to keep in mind is, ‘You cannot surge trust’ in times of an emergency, it has to be already established,” he said.

    The feedback session also highlighted citizen preparedness, military and civilian partnerships and learning from best practices.

    “There is a common understanding among the emergency management community that being out in front of any situation is vital,” Rodgers recapped. “You have to determine whether you are ‘Going through it or growing through it’.”

    A formal closing ceremony allowed dignitaries and guests to highlight the importance of meeting face-to-face again for this year’s DREE.

    “Exercises like DREE reflect real world disaster scenarios and offer valuable opportunities to improve civilian and military cooperation,” said Mr. Earl R. Miller, U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh during closing remarks.

    “For over five decades now, the United States has been committed to supporting Bangladesh, and I am really proud of these joint efforts, especially over the past two years because ultimately -- they help save lives.”



    Date Taken: 11.03.2021
    Date Posted: 11.03.2021 23:20
    Story ID: 408651
    Location: DHAKA, BD 

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