June 8, 2012—The planned demonstration of ASEAN’s new disaster monitoring and response system in Jakarta turned into urgent application when a powerful earthquake hit near Sumatra.
The ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility, managed by Nathan Associates, is supporting the installation of a new operational system for the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre). The Centre works with and coordinates activities with the national disaster management offices of ASEAN’s ten member states. The new system, dubbed the Disaster Monitoring and Response System or DMRS, is based on the DisasterAWARE platform of the Pacific Disaster Center.
A demonstration of the system was underway on April 11 when an 8.6 magnitude earthquake struck west of Sumatra, the major westerly island of Indonesia. Within minutes, the Centre had graphic interpretations of information and modeling data on display. Executive Director, Said Faisal, used the system to measure distance to shore, populated areas, time for the first wave of a possible tsunami to reach buoys for confirmation, nearest airports, and other information critical to communication decisions before mass-media coverage began. For the next two hours, the AHA Centre used the new system to monitor circumstances until the tsunami warning was canceled.
The official launch of the DMRS on April 12 was attended by U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David L. Carden, ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin, officials of various member states, and news media from around the world. Executive Director Faisal thanked the U.S. Government "for providing a team of international specialists to work closely with the AHA Centre in developing the DMRS. It will enable us to have better overall capability to analyze disasters and speed up decision making."
The DMRS project stemmed from U.S. President Barack Obama's offer of support in 2009 for a multihazard early warning system. The DMRS will be fully deployed over the course of a year, during which time AHA Centre staff will be trained in its use.
The ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility is one of five projects in ASEAN managed by Nathan Associates and funded by USAID and the Department of State.