Engineers Discuss Emergency Preparedness During PP18 Symposium

Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Micah Blechner

Date: 05.24.2018
Posted: 05.25.2018 05:56
News ID: 278427

Civil Engineering experts from the U.S. Navy, National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) at University of Hawaii and both Vietnamese civilian and military government organizations discussed emergency preparedness during a Civil Engineering and Disaster Recovery Symposium May 24.

The symposium’s topics included hazards and vulnerability, characteristics of coastal zones that contribute to vulnerability, defining risks and describing the potential impacts of coastal hazards on communities, and describing the risk assessment process.

“If you think about Vietnam, it is just one big, long coastline,” said Karl Kim, Director of the NDPTC. “They are exposed to many different kinds of coastal hazards; not just Typhoons and storm surges, but also threats like climate change and sea-level rise. There are a lot of vital assets and resources along the coastline that need protection. Forums like this provided during Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18) are vital to starting a conversation about what we can do as civil engineers to prepare for future disasters instead of reacting to disasters as they occur.”

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 first part of Disaster Risk Reduction Planning is pretty simple: we have to anticipate what a future disaster look like using our collective experience from past,” continued Kim. “The second most important part of planning is searching for alternate courses of action and other things that can be done before, during and after a disaster takes place.”

Many of the risks and hazards associated with common disasters experienced in the Indo-Pacific region are well known: continuous rain that leads to excessive flooding, debris from trees and foliage blocking major infrastructure post flooding, wind-borne objects causing untold damage to buildings and property, sheets of glass in high-rise buildings breaking, power and traditional communication outages, and loss of life.

“The greatest hazard when dealing with Disaster Recovery would have to be communication, or lack thereof,” Kim said. “There must be an avenue for Information be able to get to those who are most affected.”

Kim explained that clear lines of communication from Disaster Risk Reduction Planners, Civil Engineers, Meteorologists, and Civilian and Military Government organizations through central early warning systems like TV, traditional news media, radio, and social media about evacuation plans, safe-shelter areas, and aid stations are crucial to keeping the loss of life to a minimum.

“Look, disasters are going to happen,” said Kim. “The real question in front of people like us is ‘how do you recover from one quickly?”

Many of the countries visited by PP18 have experienced unprecedented economic growth over the past decade or so. Kim contends that countries like these who are vulnerable to wide-scale natural disasters must engage in a continuous dialogue between all entities involved in Disaster Recovery in an effort to develop and evolve plans to effectively assist those in need.

“The life-cycle of many of these engineering and planning decisions can be measured in decades,” said Lt. Andrew Smith, Contingency Engineering Team, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific and participant in PP18. “Making the right decisions in the planning process on the front end will have immeasurable benefits in the future.

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.