DHAKA, Bangladesh (Aug. 18, 2013) -- Historical patterns in the Bangladesh region reflect that the heavily populated country, which sits on three crossing fault lines, is three decades overdue for a major earthquake.

In an effort to prepare for the massive impact that such an unpredictable disaster would have on the country, members of the U.S. Army Pacific, or USARPAC, partnered with the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division, or AFD, and government in developing a realistic exercise that brings together civil and military experts to build a framework of regional collaboration, readiness and response.

U.S. Army Pacific, the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division, government and civil organizations, and international observers kicked off the 2013 Pacific Resilience Disaster Response Exercise & Exchange, known as a DREE, during an opening ceremony, Aug. 18, in Dhaka.

The four-day DREE is the fourth annual Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief engagement between USARPAC and the Bangladesh AFD, and its goal is to operationalize a Multi-National Coordination Centre plan that integrates response across civil and military institutions.

"It is not a question of whether," explained Ambassador Dan Mozena from the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka. "It is not question of if. It is only a question of when. When will Dhaka be hit by a large magnitude earthquake? If Dhaka where hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, then about 20 percent of the 350,000 buildings in this great mega city, would collapse."

While Bangladesh is accustomed to thinking about the unthinkable and is often considered a global model of preparedness for various types of natural disasters, earthquake response is an area that the country has little to no experience with. Through exercises such as DREE, America continues to assist Bangladesh in preparing for such a disaster.

"Events like the DREE contribute to our common goal of humanity," said Lt. Gen Abu Beial Mohammad Shafiul Haque, the Bangladesh AFD's principal staff officer. "Let us all work together and combine our efforts, and mitigate the impact of natural disasters."

The 2013 DREE is designed to maximize best practices and leverage subject matter expertise, opening with expert presentations on earthquake vulnerability in Bangladesh, U.S. disaster management response, the Standing Order on Disasters and the National Disaster Management Act, the Dhaka City earthquake contingency response plan, and international disaster response.

A table-top exercise provides a forum for 128 participants to brainstorm and engage in discussions related to a major earthquake scenario. A field training exercise, or FTX, allows 450 participants to apply those discussions in a practical setting at the Fire Service & Civil Defense Training Academy in Mirpur.

The FTX hinges on four major areas: command and control, search and rescue, engineering, and debris management. It features a rubble pile built by the Bangladesh AFD to simulate a collapsed building, providing realistic search and rescue training opportunities for civil organizations and rescue volunteers.

The DREE will conclude with a full day dedicated to an after-action review, where participants can evaluate and share what they think went well and what can be improved to enhance future exchanges and maximize preparedness.

Page last updated Mon August 19th, 2013 at 08:50