Cover: Collaborative Disaster Preparedness

Collaborative Disaster Preparedness

Vietnam, the United States, and Regional Experiences (Proceedings from Da Nang, Vietnam, August 18–20, 2015)

Published May 19, 2016

by Sarah Weilant

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Vietnam is one of the most natural disaster–prone countries in Southeast Asia, with densely populated areas vulnerable to flooding from typhoons and other weather events. In order to lessen the impact of disasters, it is crucial to have a comprehensive plan for disaster preparedness and response to future events. This report summarizes the workshop on Collaborative Disaster Preparedness that was conducted in August 2015 in Da Nang, Vietnam, and hosted by the Collaborative & Adaptive Security Initiative (CASI), based within the Center for Civil-Military Relations at the Naval Post Graduate School. CASI partnered with key members of the Disaster Management Working Group for Vietnam to include the Oregon National Guard, the Office of Defense Cooperation from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, and the Center for Excellence to host an educational program on collaborative disaster preparedness. This event also was synchronized with the U.S. Navy's Pacific Partnership and the U.S. Naval Ship Mercy's visit to Da Nang, Vietnam. The purpose of the workshop was for participants from over 20 governmental, intergovernmental, nongovernmental, and military organizations to discuss valuable lessons to be learned from past emergency response and disaster risk management. The workshop identified several collaboration, preparedness, and response mechanisms, and enhanced participants' understanding of national and international actors' roles in collaborative disaster responses and recovery.

Key Findings

  • Understanding the emergency-preparedness cycle, local contexts, and following the existing civilian military, intergovernmental, and regional coordination guidelines and agreements can improve the coordinated response of locals and aid in the provision of international officials' and responders' support to saves lives.
  • A response to disaster should be dealt with locally first. External assistance should only be requested if the affected nation does not have sufficient capacity to respond.
  • Foreign military assistance is a last resort. The military should only offer assistance if it has a truly unique capability or if a massive surge is needed. Disasters can be unpredictable, and local environments can make immediate response difficult, so it is important for foreign and local military and government responders to understand their roles and be flexible in their assistance activities to meet changing needs.
  • In order to significantly lessen damage and loss caused by disasters, it is critical to share information through training, planning, and mitigation — in addition to sharing important lessons learned from past disaster management in the region with all types of disaster responders — in order to effectively coordinate, prepare, and respond to future disasters.

The workshop was sponsored by the Collaborative & Adaptive Security Initiative and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND conference proceeding series. RAND conference proceedings present a collection of papers delivered at a conference or a summary of the conference.

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