In 2015 UNDAC teams were deployed to nine emergency response missions and three disaster response preparedness missions. Following the alerts, we were on the ground fast and in good numbers, in particular in Malawi, Chile, Nepal and Vanuatu. To make a difference in the emergency response, together with our operational partners and UN colleagues. In different situations – floods, earthquakes, cyclones stretching from the Americas, to Africa, the Middle-East, Asia and the Pacific – UNDAC teams were called upon to provide coordination support in the first days and weeks of the emergency.
These emergencies also provided us with an opportunity to test the system and see if investments made in operational partnerships, selection, training, guidance and tools paid off. The earthquake in Nepal put the UNDAC system to the test, collaborating in synch with the USAR community, our operational support partners, the national relief effort and the wider humanitarian community, while at the same time putting the new INSARAG and OSOCC guidelines and new tools into practice. Assessing from the various response reviews that have since taken place, we – collectively – passed that test.
The cyclone responses to Vanuatu, Micronesia, Bahamas and Yemen (Oman) showed that in often difficult-to-reach disaster affected countries, the UNDAC teams can get on the ground quickly and provide support to affected countries. Similarly flood responses in Chile, Malawi and Myanmar confirmed again that these are highly dynamic disaster events – often starting mildly but quickly getting out of control – where teams need to be on the ground in good numbers soon in order to stay “ahead of the curve” as the flood situation evolves.
In short, 2015 was again a very interesting year for the UNDAC team, where we learned and applied major lessons for effective emergency response, as well as preparedness activities. It was good to see that the investment in guidelines and training around INSARAG and OSOCC methodology paid off already – in Nepal in particular. We will continue building on this in 2016 through OSOCC training courses, working also with the USAR and Emergency Medical Team communities on linking USAR coordination and EMT coordination training, as well as engaging with regional organizations on training based on UNDAC methodology.
Speaking of training: in 2015 FCSS conducted another two consolidation courses to “refresh” the UNDAC members on the latest practice and developments. With a 6th and final consolidation course coming March in Sweden, this cycle of consolidation courses will be finished. In 2016 we will be conducting two Induction courses to further strengthen the UNDAC membership. And as leadership is key, FCSS will also offer a UNDAC Team Leader’s course for aspiring UNDAC leaders.
The continuous loop between practice, partnerships, innovation of tools and methodology and training to prepare to respond is critical for UNDAC to stay fit for immediate emergency response. In 2015 we passed that test this year. But there remains plenty of work to strengthen UNDAC further, so 2016 will surely be a busy and fascinating year.