DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Military Emergency Preparedness program sponsored an Emergency Operations Center and Geographic Information Systems Workshop for representatives from Tajikistan's Committee for Emergency Situations and Civil Defense and Ministry of Defense Aug. 9-13.

During the workshop, members from USACE and the Virginia National Guard teamed up to discuss emergency management topics such as geographic information systems, incident management and organization, and crisis communications.

"As a nation, we've learned a lot in the area of emergency management from the disasters that have hit us - both natural and manmade. These workshops give us the opportunity to pass on those lessons learned to our counterparts in other nations, and even though we can't prevent these disasters, we can at the very least save some lives in the process," said David Schafer, emergency operations chief for the USACE New England District.

The workshop and tabletop discussions provided a place where both countries could share their experiences and learn from each other, said Col. Tursunor Yusufjon, Emergency Operations Center deputy chief from Tajikistan's Committee for Emergency Situations.

"It's very interesting to know from an experienced country the advances used to address [emergency operations] issues and it's also beneficial [for them] to learn our experiences and our issues," he said.

Tajikistan, a former republic of the Soviet Union, is located in Central Asia, north of Afghanistan and with an area slightly smaller than Wisconsin. Due to the size and location of their country, Tajikistan's representatives were primarily interested in disaster prevention activities such as forecasting systems, analysis and preparation in addition to emergency response activities, Yusufjon said.

"We try to work with response methods and try to work with the population because in natural disasters, people can be helpless," he said. "You can warn populations, you can do things to help them be prepared, but you'll never be able to prevent 100 percent."

The introduction of the latest GIS technology and its requirements to the country's emergency preparedness program were also well received by the participants, according to Jennifer Hoban, a GIS specialist from the USACE Russellville Project Office in Arkansas, and Mark Brewer, a realty specialist from the USACE Detroit District in Michigan, both of whom facilitated the GIS workshop.

Additionally, the incorporation of the State Partnership Program into CMEP activities has helped bring more experts to the table along with different perspectives, said Maj. Todd Pebbles, deputy Exercise Planning Directorate for Joint Forces Headquarters in Virginia.

"It's interesting to compare how we do things with how they do things. Each country operates at different scales, but in many ways we can learn from them," he said. "It's always good to see how other organizations operate because it gives you insight. In operations, there's no right way - you always learn from every experience."

The Virginia Guard has been partners with Tajikistan since 2004, according to their website.

Tajikistan representatives also expressed their appreciation to all the specialists for taking time to present their personal experiences and lessons learned and look forward to the continued cooperation between the two countries, Yusufjon said.

"It would be very beneficial to continue to exchange relevant experts to encourage the establishment of specialized relationships," he said.

The Civil Military Emergency Preparedness program helps countries increase inter-ministerial collaboration within and between governments in the field of national and international emergency planning and preparedness. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency for CMEP.