DHAKA, Bangladesh -- The third annual Pacific Resilience Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange 2012 held by the U.S. Army Pacific and Bangladesh Armed Forces Division went off without a hitch this week, testing the capabilities of disaster response organizations and personnel in the event of a catastrophic earthquake event in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
More than 180 personnel representing more than 70 organizations participated in a two-day table top exercise, analyzing and planning how to deal with various scenarios that may occur in the wake of a major disaster. Over 1,250 personnel then participated in a city-wide field training exercise, reacting to real-world scenarios ranging from search and rescue to evacuation of casualties to local hospitals.
Led by the USARPAC G-9, Civil-Military Operations and the Bangladesh AFD, the DREE focused on supporting cilivian authorities and the Government of Bangladesh in a disaster response scenario. Without civil-military interoperability, disaster management can quickly slow and become less effective.
“I have been very pleased and very encouraged by what I have seen here in the last three days,” said Col. William R. Hollingsworth, Jr., U.S. Army Pacific G-9, Civil-Military Operations.
A two-day table top exercise emphasized the importance of effective engagement and planning between civil and military organizations in the wake of a major disaster. Coordination with Bangladesh and U.S. national agencies as well as international non-governmental organizations was necessary to effectively plan responses to scenarios that would come up in the wake of a large scale earthquake in Dhaka city.
“I am really fortunate to have been here in 2010 and 2011,” said Lt. Col. Mohammad Tawhid-Ul-Islam, Joint Operations, Bangladesh Armed Forces Division. “I can see the continuation of our disaster management preparedness. We have these participants that are disaster management experts, but we had to bring them together and get them in the [mindset].”
A culminating field training exercise was held on the third day of the DREE. The first of its kind, the FTX exercised plans, equipment and personnel between the U.S. and Bangladesh to increase readiness for disaster response. USARPAC hopes to use this FTX as the baseline for future FTX opportunities in Indonesia and Nepal.
“This year and next year mark a big step forward with the Pacific Resilience concept as we move forward with the field training portion of the DREE,” said Hollingsworth. “For the first time with one of our partners we have effectively carried out a full-scale field exercise.”
Observed by the Bangladesh Minister of Disaster Management and Relief Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and U.S. Ambassador Dan Mozena, both stressed the importance of the strong partnership between the two countries as a necessity in effective disaster response.
Conducted at multiple locations throughout Dhaka, the FTX included search and rescue, fire fighting, medical first response, helicopter extraction of casualties, response to a capsized ferry, rooftop rescue and many other scenarios. Field participants reacted to those scenarios as they would in an actual disaster.
A field hospital was set up in Bushandhara and three local hospitals participated in the exercise, testing their capabilities to respond to a mass casualty situation. Patients were evacuated to Mitford Hospital, Combined Military Hospital and Apollo Hospital where various injuries were evaluated and treatments were described. Soldiers and airmen from Tripler Army Medical Center, 18th Medical Command and the Oregon National Guard were on hand to observe, assist and evaluate Bangladesh medical personnel and first responders both in the field and at the medical centers.
“This was a really unique opportunity in which we could really explore our capabilities,” said Tawhid. “This is the first training exercise of its kind and it was very much a success.”
“With the FTX, we have established what the benchmark is for Bangladesh,” said Hollingsworth. The true indicator of success will now be how much further and how much harder they continue to push themselves to improve.”
Joint planning efforts between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USARPAC and AFD began last September. USACE and the USARPAC G-9, Civil-Military Operations are involved with planning at least three disaster response exercises at any given time.