U.S. Supports State-Of-The-Art Disaster Monitoring and Response System for ASEAN

Two men shaking hands. (Mission Image)
U.S. Amb. David Carden and ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan following the presentations at the AHA Centre

Jakarta, 12 April 2012 – Following the recent opening of the Jakarta-based ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre), a team of international specialists, supported by the U.S. Government has begun work on the next phase in the Centre’s development by installing the ASEAN Disaster Monitoring and Response System (DMRS). The system will provide the emergency operations centre with streams of hazard data on events such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, forest fires, and other natural disasters from all over ASEAN, combining them into one interface which will be used to enhance disaster monitoring and decision making.

“Our team is identifying and collating a multitude of hazard data types available from international and regional sources, and is delivering a powerful application that integrates them all into one platform. These will form the basis for the DMRS”, said Mr. Ray Shirkhodai, Executive Director of the U.S.-based Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), which is supplying the technical team and the operational software (based on the PDC’s DisasterAWARE platform) to be utilized by the AHA Centre. He added that “while the AHA Centre is already a fully functional facility, the system will enhance disaster monitoring capabilities, and its effectiveness will continue to improve as more data streams are brought online”.

The implementation of the AHA Centre DMRS was motivated by an offer of support, from U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010, for an ASEAN multi-hazard early warning system. The AHA Centre, working closely and with the support of the ASEAN Secretariat, has also obtained assistance from other ASEAN Dialogue Partners including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the European Union.

“Yesterday’s earthquake off the coast of Aceh was a great reminder of how critical the issue of disaster preparedness and relief is in Southeast Asia, given the region’s great population and susceptibility to natural disasters,” said U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David L. Carden. “ASEAN has been a leader in promoting regional disaster preparedness and relief cooperation, and the United States is proud to be part of this effort to bring a state-of-the-art all-hazard disaster alert system.”

Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, also attended the event to witness the installation and handover of the DMRS at the AHA Centre. “After going through what happened yesterday with the Sumatra earthquakes and tsunami watch, I feel comforted that the AHA Centre is getting a state-of-the-art technology from the U.S. When this system is fully developed, it will enhance not only AHA Centre’s disaster monitoring and response capability but also benefit the ASEAN community at large and help reduce disaster losses in the region”. The Secretary-General, who is also the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator, closely monitored the earthquakes and tsunamis yesterday along with the AHA Centre.

The ASEAN Disaster Monitoring and Response System will compile and transform information from national and international hazard monitoring and disaster warning agencies on events such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, forest fires, and other natural disaster into a regional, event-tracking and decision-support tool that utilizes maps and modeling applications. By integrating the monitoring of hazard data into one system, AHA Centre operators can immediately see the big picture, which improves response times and leads to more efficient use of relief resources.

“It is a priority for ASEAN, under its Connectivity Initiative, to address the many geographical challenges of the region through information and communication technology”, commented Mr. Said Faisal, Executive Director of the AHA Centre. “With this system in place, sharing hazard data and information from all corners of ASEAN, the AHA Centre is on the right track to fully assist Member States in preparing for, and responding to, disasters”.

The AHA Centre DRMS is supported by the U.S. through the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of State funded ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility.

Man talking to audience. (Mission Image)
Ray Shirkhodai, Executive Director of the Pacific Disaster Center, presents the ASEAN Disaster Monitoring and Response System (DMRS)