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ASEAN nations hold extensive experience in dealing with various types of disasters in the region, which has in-turn ensured a solid system to train and certify its ASEAN disaster responders. However, as part of on-going development of regional training and standards for responders, it becomes important for ASEAN to benchmark its own training and standards in comparison with countries from outside the region. This has formed the reasoning for the Operationalising the ASEAN Standards and Certification for Experts in Disaster Management (ASCEND) project, under which the AHA Centre and the Republic of Korea’s Korean National Fire Agency (KNFA) have developed their recent partnership.

Starting in late December 2019, the ASCEND project seeks to create a regionally recognised certification scheme for disaster management professionals, in order to ensure and promote higher standards and quality in the management of disasters throughout ASEAN. It aims to ensure the availability of competent disaster management professionals in the region, with strong capacity to manage disasters to reduce the loss of life, respond effectively, recover more quickly, and decrease disaster risks throughout the ASEAN region wherever possible. This initiative is part of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) Work Programme 2016-2020, and will also contribute to the realisation of ASEAN’s goal to become a global leader in disaster management by 2025, as expressed in the ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management.

The project will be implemented for three years and cover the pilot period of the ASCEND Framework and Roadmap implementation in collaboration with the KNFA. The pilot will be critical for the development of ASCEND, during which the AHA Centre will focus on the application of ASCEND Framework in a number of ASEAN countries. KNFA will contribute to the ongoing development of ASCEND by deploying their experts and sharing their knowledge and experience on disaster management from the Korean context. Similarly, the KNFA hopes to benefit with new knowledge and experience through its further engagement in the ASEAN region and perspectives. The collaboration between KNFA and the AHA Centre forms a showcase of positive collaboration and learning between individual nations and institutions from the ASEAN region such as the AHA Centre.

A significant learning that ASEAN can obtain from Korea is related to the development of the Korea Disaster Relief Team (KDRT). The United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) has certified the KDRT as a Heavy Search and Rescue (SAR) team, meaning that it is considered as one of the leading SAR teams globally. Within ASEAN itself, there are two nations with SAR teams that have successfully obtained the INSARAG Heavy classification – namely the Lionheart team from Singapore and the SMART team from Malaysia. Additionally, the Indonesian BASARNAS (the National Search and Rescue Body) has just received its INSARAG classification as medium Urban SAR in November 2019. Therefore, there is value for ASEAN to learn more about the KDRT, in particular related to how the KDRT maintain its readiness, recruits and trains new members, and maintains its high standards and quality on an ongoing basis. Such knowledge could support and improve the management and training activities of other Search and Rescue Teams within the ASEAN region.


Written by : William Shea | Photo : AHA Centre