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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guest Speaker: How Do Responders Coordinate in the Midst of Disaster Chaos?

Diplomacy can break down. Borders can appear where none existed before. Divisions between cultures, languages and beliefs can push communities apart. But in times of disaster, coordination between nations and organizations is key in preventing unnecessary destruction and keeping people safe from harm. According to Steve Recca, this month’s Red Cross Lunch and Learn speaker and current Humanitarian Assistance Program Advisor with the Pacific Disaster Center, combined efforts between governments, non-governmental agencies and citizens helped prevent the Typhoon Haiyan disaster from wreaking far more damage than it could have.
Steve Recca,
Program Advisor,
Pacific Disaster Center

“The damage and loss of life the typhoon caused were horrible, of course,” said Recca. “But the Filipinos did a great job dealing with it, and international support was well-communicated and capable.”

The response, Recca said, was successful due to its work well in advance of the storm. The Pacific Disaster Center provided information and predictive data in the “off-season” to the Philippine government and international groups. Armed with the PDC’s estimates of a hypothetical typhoon’s path, intensity, rainfall and damage levels, international organizations and local governments coordinated training exercises to prepare for exactly the kind of storm the next typhoon promised to be.

The disaster plans that arose from this multinational effort were tested when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines in 2013. The storm, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones on record, ripped through the area and left thousands of casualties and billions of dollars of damage in its enormous, 1200-mile-wide wake.

The Red Cross was one of many agencies that responded. (Read more about ongoing efforts her: http://www.redcross.org/what-we-do/international-services/haiyan)

“When the storm hit, the groups involved had talked together and trained together in advance, so when they came together to respond to the storm, they knew each other and their organizational capabilities,” Recca said. “There is very much a success story there.”

While the PDC’s efforts are tailored for the needs of the Pacific region, Recca said that their coordinated efforts and the tools they’ve developed for disaster response can be useful for anyone wanting to contribute to disaster relief at home and abroad. He encouraged those who attend Wednesday’s talk to explore the PDC’s Web site (www.pdc.org) for information useful for disaster response volunteers, whether they want to help with a storm in the Pacific or a wildfire in the Rocky Mountain foothills.

“The site is really there for anyone who’s wondering, how can the PDC help me be the best volunteer in a disaster event?” he said.

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Aug. 20, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18 to Tim Bothe at Tim.Bothe2@redcross.org. Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

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