ALOR SETAR: The Asean Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise (ARF Direx) is vital in testing civil and military preparedness for disasters.
National Security Council secretary Datuk Thajudeen Abdul Wahab said the exercise aimed to create synergy and co-operation between Asean countries based on regional disaster management experiences.
The exercise, he said, would also put into practice ways to overcome challenges in any disaster.
“One of the challenges is managing the media. For example, during the Kuala Krai floods last year, we could not inform the media about what was happening (at the time). We disaster managers were biting our nails on how to manage it. We didn’t want the whole country to panic as well,” he said in an interview yesterday.
He said other challenges included mass co-ordination in times of crisis, casualty management, aid distribution and ways to manage assistance from foreign countries.
“We also have to manage the needs of vulnerable people, including senior citizens and the disabled,” he added.
While the exercise has been conducted for quite some time, this year’s series stands out as it is the first after Asean leaders formed the “One Asean, One Response” initiative.
“It also has the largest participation. More than 3,000 people are involved, including 1,280 foreign participants,” he said.
Thajudeen related an incident following the Nepal earthquake when Malaysia and Singapore rescuers were the first on scene.
“At first, rescuers from both countries were diverted to Calcutta but we managed to teleconference and co-ordinate. When the Thais arrived, they also co-operated with us,” he said.
He added that one of the most memorable moments of the search and rescue in Nepal was the sight of Malaysia’s Smart team members, the Thai search and rescue team and members of Singapore’s Civil Defence rescuing and carrying an injured victim together.
“We want to have such co-operation between Asean countries. This exercise aims to foster that,” he said.
Thajudeen said the exercise would be split into two parts – a table-top exercise and a field exercise.
“The table top deals with theory. We present the countries involved with different disaster scenarios and ask for their solutions.
“It has to be done fast and the participants must treat it like it is a real-life situation.”
The field exercise presents participants with situations mimicking a real disaster.
“We want to find the best practices and best solutions, which will be used in disaster management in the country,” he said.
The exercise, led by the NSC, will see simulated land, air and sea rescue missions involving a multi-country approach.