Due to its geographical location which is outside the ‘Pacific Rim of Fire’, Singapore is spared from natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. However, Singapore cannot insulate itself from disaster prevention and management efforts as it is still susceptible to man-made disasters; which can be in the form of terror attacks or hazmat incidents. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), under the command of Ministry of Home Affairs, is the National Authority that will coordinate, plan, command and control all operations undertaken by the various agencies to mitigate major disasters.
SINGAPORE’S CONTRIBUTION TO REGIONAL AND GLOBAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT EFFORTS
Due to the increased interconnectivity between the ASEAN Member States, the effects of a natural disaster on a particular Member State can also affect the entire ASEAN region. In this regard, Singapore is strongly
engaged not only in ASEAN but also on a global scale, and strive to be a leader in disaster preparedness and response practices.
Singapore is represented in the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Advisory Board and the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) Steering Group, helping to shape strategies and policies for adoption globally by the disaster management fraternity. The 76-member SCDF Ops Lionheart team is the first team in the Asia-Pacific region to be classified as a “Heavy” Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team under the INSARAG External Classification (IEC) – the highest classification provided to USAR Teams by the United Nations. SCDF’s Ops Lionheart Contingent had been deployed to 17 overseas humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions and is constantly on standby to offer assistance to any country which has been struck by disasters such as earthquakes, floods or tsunamis.
Other than the SCDF’s Ops Lionheart Contingent, SCDF has a pool of trained officers on standby round the clock throughout the year, ready to be activated alongside international humanitarian partners in disaster coordination in the following capacities:
⋅ Active UNDAC members who have supported several overseas missions and exercises regularly;
⋅ One of the founding members of Asia-Pacific Humanitarian Partnership (APHP). SCDF has an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Support Module Team that can support the UNDAC operations at the disaster site with specified communications equipment and assist in establishing the On Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC);
⋅ Specialised officers trained to form the Hazmat Assessment Unit (HAU) that respond to environmental emergencies in support of the UN Joint Environment Unit (UN-JEU); and
⋅ Operational officers trained as ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) that supports the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions that are coordinated by the AHA Centre.
Some of the recent major disasters which SCDF has provided support included the deployment of ASEAN-ERAT for the Aceh Earthquake in 2016, Ops Lionheart mission for the Nepal earthquake in 2015, responding to the Malaysian floods in 2014, the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, APHP support for Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and UNDAC/APHP support for Typhoon Bopha in 2012.
Singapore has also played a key role in the ASEAN regional disaster management efforts. At the regional front, the SCDF serves as Singapore’s focal point for the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), and a member of the Governing Board of the AHA Centre. Together with Indonesia, Philippines and the ASEAN Secretariat, Singapore was a member of the Task Force set up in 2009 for the establishment of the AHA Centre and played a pivotal role in the operationalisation of the Centre, particularly in the setup of its ICT infrastructure and systems. As co-chairs of two of the ACDM Working Groups; Preparedness and Response with Malaysia and Knowledge and Innovation Management with Indonesia and Viet Nam, Singapore through the SCDF drives several key initiatives under the AADMER Work Programme. This includes the development of ASEAN Standby Arrangements and Standard Operating Procedures, or SASOP, ASEAN Joint Disaster Response Plan, establishment of ASEAN-ERAT, Disaster Emergency Logistics Systems for ASEAN, and developing thought leadership in ASEAN through the hosting of the annual Strategic Policy Dialogue in Disaster Management and the Senior Executive Programme in Disaster Management.
Singapore is actively engaged in a range of disaster management activities and shares her best-in-class practices, systems and processes with the international community through overseas exchange programmes, rescue assistance, and the provision of a plethora of training courses in disaster management. Singapore’s Civil Defence Academy, established in March 1999, conducts a wide range of training for the international community. The Academy frequently leverages on technology and has incorporated the use of immersive virtual technology for decision making and command training. CDA’s flagship programmes include the International Firefighting, Hazardous Materials (HazMat) and USAR courses. Besides training the operational personnel and developing countries, CDA has also been training senior officials at the strategic-level and developed countries through the conduct of courses such as the Leadership Programme in Disaster Management and Disaster Risk Reduction and Response Course.
Written by : William Shea | Photo: SCDF
INTERNATIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE ADVISORY
GROUP (INSARAG) TRAINING EXERCISE
CLARK FREE PORT, PAMPANGA,THE PHILIPPINES, 26-29 JUNE 2018
Testing, refining and streamlining the AHA Centre’s disaster coordination mechanisms is integral to ensuring ease of implementation in disaster responses. This year’s International Search and Rescue Advisory Group’s (INSARAG) exercise, held in Clark Free Port from the 26th to the 29th of July allowed the AHA Centre to further optimise coordination processes and ensure they are streamlined with local and international processes alike, creating an efficient and united environment when responding to disasters in the region.
At this year’s exercise, the AHA Centre was represented by a number of staff, alongside 7 ASEAN-ERAT team members. Alongside engaging in all activities throughout the exercise, the AHA Centre also worked with UN-OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (UN-OCHA ROAP) to deliver a first-day training session on the inter-operability of ASEAN-ERAT and United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), based on specific insight gained through the recent National Contingency Planning for a Metro Manila 7.2M Earthquake scenario. In the days following, further work and clarity was developed between the various parties, including roles and responsibilities of joint operations between ASEAN-ERAT and UNDAC, Reception Departure Centre (RDC) development and coordination mechanisms, as well as liaison roles for external parties present within the Joint Operations and Coordinaton Centre of ASEAN (JOCCA). A total of 220 individuals from 27 countries, alongside 286 local parties participated in the exercise.
Many positives were highlighted from the 2018 INSARAG exercise, particularly related to the fact that the exercise was based on the National Contingency Planning scenario recently developed with the Philippines. Due to the recent implementation of a Philippine International Humanitarian Assistance Guideline (PIHAG), as a basis for offers/requests for international assistance by the Government of the Philippines, all stakeholders were able to test and familiarise themselves with the implementation and operation of this new guideline. The 2018 INSARAG training served to continue momentum under which regional and international actors are harmonising systems and mechanisms that will avoid duplication and increase understanding for all stakeholders related to national response plans of ASEAN nations.
As summed up by ASEAN-ERAT member Mark July Yap (the Philippines), “the INSARAG 2018 exercise gave me a broader insight in disaster management, not only regionally but from an international perspective. It enabled me to understand and put into practice the existing disaster response mechanisms, and was a great avenue to test and strengthen inter-operability of these mechanisms, as well as identify and address gaps.”
Written by : Grace Endina | Photo : AHA Centre
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
STRENGTHENING THE INTEROPERABILITY OF
ASEAN-ERAT AND UNDAC
SWITZERLAND, 29 APRIL – 11 MAY 2018
THE ASEAN REGION WAS REPRESENTED BY THREE MEMBERS OF THE REGION DURING THE UNITED NATIONS DISASTER ASSESSMENT AND COORDINATION (UNDAC) GLOBAL INDUCTION COURSE, HELD IN SWITZERLAND FROM THE 29TH OF APRIL TO THE 11TH OF MAY, 2018. THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN THE UNDAC TRAINING SERVES TO DEMONSTRATE THE STRENGTHENED PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE UNITED NATIONS AND ASEAN FOR INCREASING COLLECTIVE DISASTER PREPAREDNESS IN THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN REGION.
The participants, from Indonesia, Malaysia and Lao PDR, included two members of the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT), thus their engagement in the UNDAC course formed another opportunity to test the interoperability between international and regional humanitarian mechanisms.
“The purpose of our involvement in the UNDAC course is to ensure quality learning process of UNDAC methodology and approach, increase the number of ASEAN-ERAT members who are also UNDAC-certified, as well as showcasing the quality of ASEAN-ERAT in collaborating together with other humanitarian actors within the UNDAC system,” said Dr. Mizan Bisri, the Disaster Monitoring and Analysis Officer of the AHA Centre, and one of the participants in the 2-week course.
At the completion of the course, numerous key-learnings could be identified, especially regarding points of improvement for adoption from UNDAC within ASEAN-ERAT processes. These included, amongst others, the strategic elements of coordination, access to assessment results, and back-end support mechanisms of UNDAC missions. A particular highlight is the strategic element of UNDAC system that forms a link between their assessment results and greater resource mobilisation, as well as public disclosure of such assessment results to increase the transparency of UNDAC and its standing in the wider humanitarian community. Therefore, dissemination of the assessment report produced by ASEAN-ERAT at the completion of each deployment/disaster response is increasingly important. While a response might not necessarily lead to greater resource mobilisation, having a public report will increase the visibility of ASEAN-ERAT, promote the values of ASEAN-ERAT, and potentially fortify the partnerships with global humanitarian partners.
The training also provided in-depth insights that may be integrated into the development of ASEAN-ERAT Level-2 curriculum, particularly related to rapid assessment, information management, logistics, humanitarian civil-military coordination and early recovery. The UNDAC holds a wide array of experiences designing back-end support with partner organisations, both within and outside of the UN system, particularly focused towards assessment and analysis, and information management aspects. Based on these experiences, within the Southeast Asian context, there are opportunities to enable ASEAN-ERAT members to provide remote support for ongoing missions on the ground.
During the UNDAC global induction course, ASEAN-ERAT was highlighted as a key regional partner for responding on the ground, capacity building and inter-operability preparedness. The ongoing participation between both ASEAN-ERAT and UNDAC within each other’s respective induction courses and exercises was highlighted and praised. UNDAC members also evidenced awareness that, in the case of disasters in ASEAN region, there is a great likelihood that a Joint Operations and Coordination Centre of ASEAN (JOCCA) would run in parallel to the Onsite Operations and Coordination Centre (OSOCC). Both centres would serve as coordinating platforms and provide support to the affected countries to manage incoming assistance. The existence of a Standard Operating Procedure between the OCHA/UNDAC and AHA Centre/ASEAN-ERAT, tailored to the respective UNDAC and ASEAN-ERAT mission cycles, was highlighted as a good institutional approach to ensure quality response for supporting the needs of the affected population. Overall, better strategic, tactical and operational linkages between ASEAN and UN agencies are fundamental to the holistic implementation of One ASEAN One Response, both for responding inside and outside the region. As of May 2018, there are 18 out of 252 ASEAN-ERAT members who had been trained and qualified as UNDAC personnel, with plans to continuously increase these numbers, in line with the ASEAN-ERAT Transformation Plan as part of the AHA Centre Work Plan 2020.
Written by : Mizan Bisri | Photo : AHA Centre, United Nations