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New Academy hosts UN course aimed to improve coordination during disasters


In a joint partnership between the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the recently established FIU Academy for International Disaster Preparedness, the university hosted a United Nations Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Course (UN-CMCoord).

The course, which ran April 6-10 at FIU’s Emergency Operations Center, focused on better preparing emergency responders and improving coordination between civil and military organizations during relief efforts in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

UN-CMCoord courses are given all over the world, but this marked the first time the course was hosted by a university.

The class included 24 participants – from civilian and military backgrounds who respond to natural disasters and/or areas of ongoing conflict known as complex emergencies– from various countries in the region, including Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua and Brazil.

“It’s important that we play a role in educating current and future leaders in emergency management around the world,” said Ruben D. Almaguer, the assistant vice president for Disaster Management & Emergency Operations at FIU. “We are susceptible to and have been impacted by many disasters here in South Florida, thus we have an obligation to take what we’ve learned and help others apply that knowledge.”

Emergency responders from around the region attended a UN course held at FIU to improve coordination during relief efforts between military and humanitarian actors.

Emergency responders from around the region attended a UN course held at FIU to improve coordination during relief efforts between military and humanitarian actors.

With Latin America and the Caribbean prone to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and conflict, the five-day course provided humanitarian, civilian and military emergency responders with practical skills that can be applied in the midst of a major crisis.

Amy B. Aiken, director of the Department of Emergency Management, attended the course as a student and was impressed with the wide scope of topics discussed, including the various humanitarian and military actors involved in relief efforts and how to interphase with other organizations trying to achieve different goals in an international setting.

At the conclusion of the course, the participants conducted a case study of the relief efforts in the hours and days after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013. They analyzed what worked and what didn’t in effectively meeting the country’s need in the aftermath.

“It was interesting for me, as an emergency manager on the domestic side, to see that internationally a lot of the same issues exist – communications, adequate planning and testing those plans,” Aiken said. “In natural disasters and complex emergencies, there’s a civilian, humanitarian component and a military component and they often have very different missions. We have to find ways to work together in order to give aid to people.”

With the Academy for International Disaster Preparedness set to begin offering courses and degrees in the near future, the course provided a unique opportunity to showcase the Academy to potential instructors and students.

“It provided a lot of insight into how we can develop some of the courses, curriculum and direction we want the Academy to take,” Aiken said. “This course could be something we want to offer as part of the Academy and participants can walk away with practical skills they will be able to utilize.”

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