International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Partners in Action


Argentina Holds National Conference on Risk Reduction and Disaster Response Planning

In order to improve the capacity and coordination of national and provincial civil defense and emergency officials in Argentina, the National Conference on Risk Reduction and Disaster Response Planning was held in Buenos Aires on 9-11 April 2002.

The event was organized by the Under-secretariat for Prevention and Promotion Programmes of the Ministry of Health and the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Programme (PED) of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The more than 120 participants work for the sanitary emergency departments, social emergency departments and civil defense units of all Argentinean provinces, as well as the Armed Forces, Domestic Security and several non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Claude de Ville, head of PED, inaugurated the conference, followed by Dr. Juan Manuel Sotelo, PAHO Country Representative, and Dr. Ginés González García, Minister of Public Health.

National and international speakers shared their knowledge and experiences with the enthusiastic participants, who spoke up frequently to apply this knowledge to their own local realities.

A total of 11 seminars on various adverse events and four seminars on specific methodologies were held. Participants were divided into five geographically homogeneous but interinstitutional groups: one from the Northwest, one from the Northeast, one from Buenos Aires and the Central Area, and one from Cuyo and Patagonia. Each group named a moderator and rapporteur for each of the issues under discussion.

The first major activity of the conference was a flood simulation that lasted over six hours, during which participants were assigned roles to play in the emergency scenario, and quickly shifted from the initial confusion and chaos to the consolidation of their own “emergency committees”, engaging in prompt decision-making to respond to the mock disaster. Many of the participants’ experiences during the simulation later fed the group and plenary discussions.

Working groups focused respectively on:

  • Preparedness and contingency plans.
  • Damage assessments and needs analysis.
  • The establishment of Operational Emergency Committees and Situation Rooms.
    Each of these topics was the subject of a seminar before the working groups came together.

One issue that attracted a great deal of attention was the new Argentinean emergency response structure, which is made up of the Federal Emergency System and the National Civil Defense Directorate under the Secretary of the Interior and the President of the Republic.

Another timely issue covered by the conference was biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear terrorism. Argentinean experts put this threat in perspective by pointing out that Argentina was less vulnerable to such attacks than other countries in the region.

The question of transparency in the management of emergency supplies in disaster situations was also discussed, and participants agreed that there was a growing demand for it not only from donors but also from the international and national community. They underscored the value of the SUMA emergency supply management system as a useful tool not only for sorting and distributing emergency aid but also for keeping track of donations and producing detailed reports on their distribution and beneficiaries.

Participants shared their own work experiences, contributing to greater mutual understanding. They agreed that the greatest challenges facing them include the deficient training of emergency personnel in such key areas as damage assessment, needs analysis, and the design and implementation of disaster prevention and mitigation plans.

Other handicaps included the difficulties in enforcing existing building and other safety codes due to the lack of coordination mechanisms between the various agencies, and the need to identify resources that could be shared or combined to achieve greater synergy among the agencies.

The conference also collected the input of participants regarding future training activities and the knowledge gained that they considered most useful for application in their respective provinces.

A document was drafted containing conclusions and recommendations at the national and provincial levels, as well as a commitment by all participants to implement the recommendations and follow up on them.

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