Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and H. E. Willem Rampangilei, Head of the Indonesian National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB), today welcomed the commencement of a three-day exercise in Ambon that explores the regional response to a catastrophic tsunami.

During the ‘tabletop’ exercise, called Ambon DiREx 2016, officials from Australia, Indonesia and other East Asia Summit (EAS) countries will explore the coordination of regional assistance following the impact on Indonesia of a fictional tsunami triggered by an 8.7 Richter scale earthquake, under the theme of “Promoting the EAS Rapid Disaster Response Toolkit as a Regional Protocol in Strengthening Effective Collaboration on Disaster Response and Resilience in the Region”.

This scenario was developed by DMInnovation, a disaster management science program that is part of Australia’s work with the Indonesian Government to strengthen its ability to respond to humanitarian crises. DMInnovation has helped improve Indonesia’s hazard and exposure mapping and tools, resulting in products like the tsunami inundation and exposure maps used in this exercise.

The focus of the exercise is the practical application of the EAS Rapid Disaster Response Toolkit, a comprehensive guide completed in 2015 for regional decision makers for both sending and receiving international disaster assistance. This exercise also serves as a mean to test the ASEAN’s Standard Operational Procedure for Regional Standby Arrangements and Coordination of Joint Disaster Relief and Emergency Response Operations (SASOP) Chapter VI on the Facilitation and Utilization of Military Assets and Capacities.

Minister Keenan said the exercise was a significant milestone in an important body of work. “Exercise Ambon is the culmination of almost five years’ work in a productive partnership between Australia and Indonesia, in collaboration with EAS countries,” Mr Keenan said. “The EAS Rapid Disaster Response Toolkit is world’s best practice - an important resource that will enable countries in the region to provide quick and effective assistance in response to natural disasters such as the tsunami in this exercise.

“I applaud the initiative of our Indonesian partner in conducting this exercise, which will provide a valuable opportunity for all the countries involved to actually apply the toolkit to a disaster scenario.” Mr Rampangilei said the partnership with Australia on emergency management was reflective of the two countries’ broader relationship.

“The strength of our relationship is underlined by strong cooperation, at various Government levels, across many issues including emergency management,” Mr Rampangilei said.

“Indonesia and Australia both understand the terrible impacts of catastrophic natural disasters. “We can’t prevent them, but knowing how best to provide inter-country assistance in their wake is very important for minimising loss of life in the response phase, and the speed of the subsequent recovery.”

Ambon DiREx 2016 is being held in Ambon in Maluku Province, Indonesia on 15-17 November. Ambon is home to an important port for Maluku, and was selected because much of its population lives in a high disaster risk area. As one of the popular tourism destinations in the eastern Indonesia region, Ambon attracts many foreign visitors each year, thus the exercise will also include the scenario of searching for missing foreign people during the fictional earthquake and tsunami.

Participants include representatives from Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Civil Military Centre and the Attorney-General’s Department, as well as Indonesia’s BNPB and other relevant ministries/departments, and also representatives from other EAS countries. Timor Leste and Fiji disaster management personnel are also attending as observers.

Mr Rampangilei said he was confident the exercise would provide valuable insights into the most effective regional response to disasters.

“Exercises such as Ambon are important for testing assumptions and exploring issues, so that we can learn any lessons and are as prepared as possible for when a real disaster occurs.”

The EAS Rapid Disaster Response Toolkit provides three elements or ‘tools’: first contact points in each country for requesting or receiving assistance; a reference guide for how to manage offers of assistance; and a detailed inventory of each country’s specific disaster capabilities and arrangements.

The development of the Toolkit and the exercise was led in Australia by Emergency Management Australia in the Attorney-General’s Department, with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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