TÉLÉCOMS SANS FRONTIÈRES
Connecting People During Emergencies
Télécoms Sans Fontières (TSF) was founded in 1998 and is currently the world’s leading non-profit emergency telecommunications organisation. TSF provides emergency communications facilities for affected populations and humanitarian aid workers during disasters. TSF has an established office in the United States, as well as three operational bases in France, Nicaragua, and Thailand. Over the last 20 years, TSF has developed a roster of worldwide IT and telecoms specialists, ready for deployment within a few hours’ notice of the onset of a disaster. TFS has built its reputation as one of the first responders on the ground when disaster strikes. TFS is also part of the first responder for the UN Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, and also a member of the UN Working Group on Emergency Telecommunications (WGET). TSF is also engaged as a partner of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
October 2010 was the first time ASEAN facilitated TSF’s deployment within ASEAN Member States, during the response to the Mentawai earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. This deployment was initiated at the request of the Office of the President of Indonesia, and in coordination with the Indonesian National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB). Since 2017, ASEAN, through the AHA Centre, has engaged TSF to train ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ERAT) regarding emergency ICT processes. The relationship between the AHA Centre and TSF has since been formalised through a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) signed on the 5th of January 2018. The MOI clarifies the facilitation of cooperation, and exchange of information, assets and ideas of mutual interest and benefit for both entities. Through the MOI, TSF also re-affirms its commitment to support ASEAN in enhancing the capacity of ASEAN ERAT for emergency ICT preparedness and response–a key element in the overall One ASEAN, One Response vision.
The partnership between AHA Centre and TSF involves cooperation on preparedness, as well as during emergency responses. Preparedness activities include training and joint deployment to exercises. Insofar, TSF has supported the implementation of three ASEAN-ERAT induction courses since April 2017. For emergency response, this partnership is crucial to support the deployment of ASEAN-ERAT, particularly during early stages when telecommunication systems are usually down.
“Emergency telecommunication will also serve as the backbone to support the role of ASEAN-ERAT in facilitating the coordination of ASEAN response on the ground. During an emergency, TSF will deploy its experts alongside ASEAN-ERAT responders to support their communication. Deployment of TSF experts and their equipment will also leverage ASEAN-ERAT’s capacity to extend our emergency communication support for the affected government and other institutions,” stated Janggam Adhityawarma, Assistant Director for Preparedness & Response with the AHA Centre.
The AHA Centre and TSF will continue to support each other during emergency deployments and through capacity building exercises. We are now looking forward to conduct a joint deployment for the ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise (ARDEX) 2018 in Indonesia, to further develop our collaboration in supporting affected ASEAN Member States in times of disaster.
Written by : Carla Budiarto | Photo : AHA Centre/Dandi Rahman
THE 9TH ASEAN-ERAT
Ten years since its first ASEAN-ERAT deployment – to support the response to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar – the AHA Centre conducted its 9th ASEAN-ERAT Induction Course from the 26th of March until the 1st of April 2018, in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. With outstanding support from the Department of Disaster Management of Myanmar (DDM) as the host, the course was attended by 31 participants from nine of the ten ASEAN Member States. Participants came from an array of backgrounds, including National Disaster Management Organisations, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Civil Society Organisations, Youth Groups, the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR), and the AHA Centre itself. The 9th ASEAN-ERAT Induction Course was officially opened with an inspiring speech by Dr. Win Myat Aye, the Union Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement of Myanmar.
One of the key features of the 9th course was the simulation exercise scenario – which engaged one of the ASEAN Contingency Plans for large scale disaster – namely a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila. Using this contingency plan scenario, the simulation exercise increased the feeling of authenticity for participants as they performed the ASEAN-ERAT core functions, including rapid damage and needs assessments and incoming ASEAN relief item facilitation. They also enacted the provision of on-site coordination support to the affected country’s local authorities, namely through the facilitation of coordination meetings between a range of ground-level stakeholders.
The simulation exercise also allowed ASEAN-ERAT participants to develop their working relationships with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, as part of the continued development of inter-operability between the Joint Operations and Coordination Centre of ASEAN (JOCCA) and the UN On-site Coordination Centre. Other components including personnel and team safety and security, as well as working with media were also tested during the simulation exercise. By simulating this response as part of the ASEAN-ERAT course, the AHA Centre has further enhanced the streamlining and capacity of ASEAN-ERAT within the ASEAN Contingency Plan development process.
Of particular note was the enthusiasm and spirit of the participants to deliver results during the non-stop, 48-hour simulation exercise. Given its intensity, the diversity of participants’ backgrounds, and varying skills across the different nationalities, the final results were considerably strong. These diversities and challenges were raised throughout the debrief session, often identified as considerable factors in shared-learning and strengthening the team.
Participants also valued the engagement of a range of external parties, including the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the International Red Cross/Crescent Societies (IFRC), Map Action, Télécoms Sans Frontières, and Myanmar Red Cross amongst others, which provided them the opportunity to familiarise themselves with other key actors who would work alongside them in the field. This also allowed participants to see the importance of stakeholder engagement in achieving the vision of One ASEAN, One Response within the ASEAN-ERAT programme.
The successful completion of the 9th ASEAN-ERAT Induction Course, supported by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), alongside other previously-mentioned implementation partners, sees a current pool of 252 ASEAN-ERAT members across the region. Graduates were inaugurated during the Closing Ceremony by Ms. Adelina Kamal, Executive Director of the AHA Centre, together with the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement of Myanmar, Dr. U Soe Aung and Director General of DDM of Myanmar, Dr. Ko Ko Naing.
“We believe that the benefit of the ASEAN-ERAT goes beyond disaster response and that, because the ERAT teams are composed of government and NGO staff, participants are able to learn skills and get awareness of technologies and practices to take home and use in their current and future projects” – Sebastien Latouille, Delegate of Télécoms Sans Frontière.
“All of the new graduates should feel a great sense of pride. This very demanding course tested each of them and they all came through!” – Oliver Lacey-Hall, Head of UN-OCHA Indonesia/ASEAN Liaison Office.
“During the training, we made mistakes under the stress of the situation. But we could correct our mistakes and overcome the stress by working together and supporting each other as a team. We really appreciate the patience of our facilitators and mentors, for teaching us, for staying with us in the SimEx and sharing your knowledge and expertise with us” – Chan Nyein Thu, ASEAN-ERAT member Batch 9, Department of Disaster Management, Myanmar.
Written by: Grace Endina | Photo: AHA Centre