/ / The Other Side


One of the crucial components in ARDEX 2023 was the involvement of referees. When all the SOPs and procedures were tested and exercised during ARDEX 2023, referees played an important role to ensure that the exercise was on the right track. Mr. Mati Raidma, an expert from Estonia, is one of the referees who were involved in ARDEX-23 since the beginning. The Column had the opportunity to speak with him on his experience in ARDEX-23.

You were involved in ARDEX in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, as a trainer during the Referee Training in May 2023. You also directly observed the conduct of the actual ARDEX in August 2023. If you may briefly share with us, how did you become involved in this simulation exercise?

“My first involvement with ASEAN was in February 2020 when I was involved in a meeting between the AHA Center and the civil protection authorities of two EU member states, the Swedish Civil Aid Agency (MSB) and the Estonian Rescue Board (ERB). From there, the project “Leveraging ASEAN Capacities for Emergency Response” (LACER) began, which as one component belongs to the general EU program “Integrated Program in Enhancing the Capacity of AHA Center and ASEAN Emergency Response Mechanisms” (EU support to the AHA Center).

Right after that, I had the opportunity to participate as a LACER expert in the Referees Training for the ARDEX 2020 in Manila, Philippines and helped conduct the course. Unfortunately, ARDEX 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19.

This year, when the preparations for ARDEX 2023 started, I was invited to conduct the Referee Training again and I am very happy and proud about it. And then ARDEX itself – a large and complex exercise that visualised the principle “One ASEAN One Response” and brought this feeling to all the hundreds of participants.”

If you may share with us, knowing that ASEAN is a disaster-prone region, how do you see disaster management sector in this region?

“The Disaster Management system in the ASEAN region is definitely in a phase of rapid development. The base, principles and structural logic have been created. The AHA Center, which has an important role to play in this, is doing its best and the progress is impressive.

In such fast processes, the bigger picture is also important. Getting to know the experience of other regions and participating in global networks gives new ideas and confidence in this development process. And at the same time share your valuable experience – that’s how we make the world a safer place to live.”

Based on your observations during the exercise, what can participants learn from ARDEX 2023 and regional disaster management mechanisms?

“In Yogyakarta I saw the great commitment of the organisers, the resource-intensive preparation of the host country and the satisfaction of the participants – the opportunity to practice together, better understand each other and exchange experiences is especially important here.

Regional cooperation in disasters and adherence to agreed protocols is critical and can be trained in exercises – in a controlled and safe environment. ARDEX plays a unique role in this sense. It is very useful and instructive for the all participants to understand the complexity of the whole operation and the various coordinating bodies.

One of the main ideas of organising exercises is to test the functioning of the agreed procedures (SASOP in the case of ARDEX) and to find ideas and opportunities for development. The work of the Referee team was targeted to support the fulfillment of this task. I hope that the after exercise report contains several useful recommendations for the future.”

Did you see any particular lessons learned that may distinguish this exercise compared to other similar disaster simulation exercises??

“The idea of comprehensiveness can distinguish ARDEX from other similar international exercises. It is great. At the same time, balancing the national and international proportions of the exercise, synchronising the simultaneous execution of CPX and FTX and thereby keeping all the different participants interested and active are very big challenges that I would recommend to analyse when planning the next exercises.”

Could you also please share with us your first experience working in disaster management?

“My experiences in the field of disaster management are divided into two. Probably my first experience relates to the national level, where I have built and led the national system of the Estonian Rescue Service and the Disaster Management Agency in the 90’s. Internationally, I have been a member of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) since 2000, which has given me the opportunity to participate in coordination mechanisms for several natural disasters and in the organising teams of UN Earthquake Response Exercises (UN ERE).”



Written by: Mati Raidma, Moch Syifa