An effective communication plan is a lifeline when disaster strikes. It takes planning and practice to ensure your family is prepared and will know what to do. What if it happens when you are at work or at school? Are you prepared to be that lifeline for each other? Today is National Preparedness Day in the USA and its a good time to discuss and practice that plan. Don’t know where to start? Visit http://m.fema.gov/family-communications to learn tips.
Disaster knows no boundaries and preparedness relies on our ability as citizens to be ready for disasters where ever they strike. Effective communications is key to resolving challenges brought on by disaster, and practicing your communications plan is critical to being prepared. It’s not only important for families and citizens to exercise their plans, but for all levels of community and government to practice their ability to communicate. One good example of a communications exercise is Pacific Endeavor, which took place August 31-September 11, 2015 in Manila, the Philippines.
Radio Endeavor is one module within the Pacific Endeavor exercise program where attending countries tested the interoperability of their radio systems for use in humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) activities.
Humanity Road was honored to be invited to attend the event. Pacific Endeavor is an annual civil-military exercise that includes over 20 countries in the Asian-Pacific Basin. It focuses on communications and interoperability in humanitarian aid disaster response (HADR). Attendees include military representatives, telecommunications and cyber companies, government and non-government organizations, and members of the international humanitarian community.
This year’s Pacific Endeavor included a tabletop exercise (TTX) based on the scenario of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake striking Manila. The TTX included military participants from 20 countries and subject matter experts from organizations including the World Food Programme (WFP), the Pacific Disaster Center, the Center for Excellence, Cisco TacOps, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), and Humanity Road. It was a productive exercise that created much dialogue between the country participants.
Also during the event, Humanity Road was able to meet and share information about communications methods for disaster response with representatives from the NDRRMC, WFP, Cisco, Ateneo University, the Emergency Response Integration Center (ERIC), Codan Radio, and many others.
One organization providing a communications lifeline to their community is Ateneo University in Manila. Dr. Estuar and her team have developed the eBayanihan system (http://ebayanihan.ateneo.edu/), which is a mobile and web based participatory disaster management system that allows citizens to participate in contributing and receiving disaster related information as part of disaster preparedness and mitigation. It crowdsources information providing actionable response to make communities resilient to disaster.
We also had great discussions with Christopher “Bong” Grajo, the Managing Director of the Emergency Response Integration Center (ERIC) headquartered in Manila. Another community lifeline, ERIC is an innovative group of information technology (IT) professionals who volunteer their expertise for Information Communication and Management during disasters. Their belief is that in a disaster situation, information is as essential as food and water.
Mr. Grajo was appreciative of Humanity Road’s work and stated at the event: “Humanity Road representatives have “bridged” me to other key people and organizations in the Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Response (HA/DR) world who appreciate what ERIC is doing. In the Philippines where we are visited by typhoons 19-21 times in a year, we always find ourselves shoulder to shoulder with military counterparts in each of these events. This is how we came to know the non-combat side of the military … where “swords are turned into plowshares.” Bong continued to share with us his great philosophy about what we do: “Humanity Road is not just an organization, nor it is just a famous global brand name, it is what it is: a humanity lifeline. Humanism is something they breathe and live out each day. Operationally they uplift the value of human persons in a disaster setting through technology. Essentially, they shepherd individuals and organizations towards collaboration and cooperation, compassionately.” Thank you Bong for your kind words!
In addition to the exercise and meetings, our Philippine hosts treated attendees to a historical and cultural tour of Manila. We learned a great deal about the history of the Philippines at the Light and Sound Museum, the Intramuros, the Rizal monument and shrine, and Fort Santiago. José Rizal is known as the “national hero” of the Philippines. A doctor and a writer, he advocated for political reforms from the Philippines’ Spanish rulers in the 1800s, and his writings and ideas influenced freedom fighters who eventually won independence from Spain.
Here is a video where you can view highlights of Pacific Endeavor.
We can only be effective communicators when we know and test our ability to talk to and with each other. Plan to practice your communications plan and support your local communities emergency preparedness exercise plans! You never know when it may be you reaching out for that lifeline.