ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) members have gathered for the third ARF Disaster Relief Exercise (DiREx) in Thailand ’s Phetchaburi province.

The four-day exercise, which concluded on May 10, aimed to rehearse the scenario of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and typhoon to improve the coordination, emergency response and disaster relief mechanism among natural disaster management agencies and ARF civil and military institutions.

Key actors in disaster relief operations in the Asia and Pacific region, including the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement also actively participated in the event.

The AHA Centre managed an on-site control centre to assist emergency rapid assessment, facilitate information sharing, and coordinate with ASEAN members to deploy resources.

The ASEAN-Emergency Rapid Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT), which consists of experienced personnel from ASEAN member nations, also took part in the exercise to simulate post-disaster assessment and provide detailed field information to the Emergency Operations Centre led by the Government of Thailand.

The activities of the aforesaid agencies were implemented at the same time as those of relevant agencies managed by the United Nations, namely the On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) and UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC).

Adelina Kamal, head of the ASEAN Secretariat’s Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (DMHA) Division, said ARF DiREx is unique as it is by far the most inclusive simulation exercise in the Asia Pacific region, and involves multiple agencies from the ARF members, civilian and military actors and international humanitarian players.

ARF DiREx provides a good opportunity to exercise the disaster response procedures and mechanisms, remarked Said Faisal, Executive Director of AHA Centre. It also provides useful lessons to improve support to ASEAN member states and strengthen coordination with other humanitarian players in real disaster situations, he added.

According to Faisal, this is the first time the AHA Centre has played a significant role in the ARF DiREx since its official launch at the 19th ASEAN Summit in November, 2011.

ARF DiREx is held on a biannual basis to strengthen civil-military coordination and disaster relief operations among the 27 ARF members.-VNA