Danish island provides test ground for Disaster preparedness and cooperation

Published: 12 November 2002 0:00 CET

Jette Sørensen in Bornholm

The tiny island of Bornholm has been hit by a violent storm that has caused landslides and widespread destruction. The local authorities say 10,000 people are dead or missing; 30,000 are homeless. Bornholm, a poor region of the republic of Dania, has a large population of refugees from neighbouring Southlandia, whose presence is resented by locals.

Several ships were sunk in the storm and are now spilling oil into the Baltic Sea.

The International Federation, which allocated an initial one million Swiss francs from its emergency funds, immediately dispatched a field assessment (FACT) team to the area to determine the needs of the affected population. Contacts have been made with the local authorities, the local Red Cross and the various UN agencies present in the disaster area.

The FACT team assessment shows that the people's needs are huge. Thousands have taken refuge in the woods. There, the local Red Cross has set up several soup kitchens to ensure they get at least one hot meal a day.

The World Food Programme and USAid are bringing in large quantities of food, part which will be distributed by the local Red Cross to the displaced population on Bornholm, but also on a neighbouring island, where many Southlandian refugees are located.

If you think this is an unlikely scenario to be unfolding on a quiet Danish island, you would be right.

But this is the scenario that was played out during the Triplex 2002 exercise, which ended in early November. The exercise was organised by the International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP), which groups the Civil Defence, the Rescue and Emergency planning organisations of Denmark, Finland, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, and which, since 1995, has cooperated in international humanitarian relief operations.

The concept is tested regularly in, among other things, the Triplex exercise, in which a number of international organisations, including the International Federation, participate.

The main objective of Triplex is to test how the various relief organisations can work together in a disaster situation. Another important aim is to get to know each others' mandates so as to facilitate relief work.

"Participating in an exercise like Triplex 2002 is extremely important for the Red Cross," said Thor Thorbro, the Federation's FACT team leader. "We get to know the other actors in the field, but even more importantly, they get to know and understand our way of working in a disaster area."

"The key words are 'cooperation and respect' – and this was clearly illustrated in this successful exercise," he adds.

Related links:

Danish Red Cross
Triplex 2002 exercise
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