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ALTER Project tabletop discussion (12)
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ALTER Tabletop Exercises Identify Key Challenges

On June 24-27, partners of the Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction (ALTER) project of the American University of Armenia (AUA) Center for Responsible Mining (CRM) participated in tabletop exercises in Sisian, Kapan, and Akhtala. The exercises were developed and carried out in close coordination with the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Armenia (RA). Members of the municipal government, private sector partners, and local NGOs participated in the exercises. 

Positive Progress from the ALTER Tabletop Exercises

Project partners were impressed by the challenging, yet realistic scenarios set up by the RA Ministry of Emergency Situations. The exercises highlighted the following key factors and questions that the ALTER project focuses on:

  1. How should rural communities be prepared for, react to and improve after a disaster?
  2. Solidarity between local stakeholders can be meaningful in rural areas during the response stage and ultimately recovery from a disaster.
  3. How can we train and educate citizens to be aware of the risks, ready to act autonomously and in cooperation with others and authorities?
  4. How can public authorities, private sector companies, and local communities form partnerships to optimize security levels in rural areas at risk?

A highlight of the exercises, according to EU partners, was the genuine discussion and problem solving by local participants in an effort to answer these questions. 

Another key outcome identified during the exercises was the need for testing disaster management plans already in place (Sisian and Kapan) and elaborating one (Akhtala). This can only be achieved through the cooperation of the RA Ministry of Emergency Situations and local community. Moreover, the tabletop format established at these meetings has been adopted by the ministry as part of the national planning for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Challenges Identified

In addition to the positive outcomes, the exercises identified areas of improvement on project sites. In Kapan, ALTER partner ARNAP Disaster Risk Reduction National Platform had organized small scale exercises in 2017, but the new community leadership has not been made aware of those exercises and results. In Akhtala, a local NGO, the private mining company, and the RA Ministry of Emergency Situations have organized a cross border cooperation program with Georgia (10 km north of the community), but not all stakeholders were aware of these efforts. In both cases, proper documentation and dissemination of activities was key to ensuring sustainability of disaster risk reduction.

Evacuation of the affected communities was also a topic of discussion. All stakeholders understand the difficulty of large scale evacuation, particularly in cases where a dam failure might allow only minutes for evacuation in the wake of an already difficult emergency situation. The participants highlighted a need for a training which will be further studied and simulated in small scale exercises in fall 2019. EU member partners of ALTER will take a leadership role in addressing those issues during field exercises.

Overall Success

The tabletop exercises can be considered a success given the issues raised and the positive outcomes they have had on national efforts on disaster risk reduction. The preparation of the RA Ministry of Emergency Situations was clear and the scenarios were difficult, yet appropriate for specific situations. The active participation of stakeholders greatly contributed to the overall success of the ALTER tabletop exercises.

The American University of Armenia (AUA) Center for Responsible Mining (CRM) promotes the creation as well as transfer and adoption in Armenia of best practices in socially, environmentally, and economically responsible mining. AUA CRM works with companies, civil society, and the public sector to achieve this goal. More information can be found at http://crm.aua.am 

The Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction, ALTER for short, is an EU Funded project focused on the establishment of public-private partnerships in Armenia to address flood risks that stem from water and mine dam failures due to earthquakes. More information on ALTER can be found at https://crm.aua.am/alter/

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