A group of experienced disaster managers from Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world are meeting this week in Washington DC coordinate and strengthen disaster response practices on international relief operations, with a special focus on urban disasters.
Members of 19 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, as well as counterparts in the International Federation of Red Cross and the International Committee of Red Cross offered perspectives and lessons learned from disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, the Queensland floods in Australia, and the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand.
Urban disaster response was a key topic as the number of people living in urban environments and the number of mega-cities with a high disaster risk increases worldwide. This requires additional emphasis on both disaster preparedness and response for these complex environments.
“Density changes the picture,” said Trevor Riggen, vice president of disaster operations, American Red Cross. “We have to learn to adapt our systems and logistical models to meet the needs of dense populations of urban dwellers, such as how to get food, resources and information to people living in high rise buildings.”
Additionally, discussions were held around topics such as rubble removal and waste water treatment for large numbers of people displaced after a disaster. Lessons learned on engaging with partner agencies, such as food banks, and local government entities highlighted how humanitarian response can move more quickly and effectively by working with local partners.
Since cities often serve as the economic drivers of countries, Red Cross assistances needs to address economic recovery models as well as traditional response needs such as shelter, food and water. This shared learning will increase response capabilities and improve coordination on large scale disaster responses world wide
“A much more globally connected world has an expectation of a global response,” said Simon Eccleshall, head of the disaster services department, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “It is our job to work together to channel that collective goodwill and this meeting allows us to align our strategies and objectives to achieve this,”
In addition, the group will make recommendations on emerging disaster responses needs such as increasing environmental awareness during a disaster response, using cash distributions in conjunction with relief supplies, responding to natural disasters inside of conflict zones and preparing affected communities for future disasters.