Allied Forces Train for Disaster
By Dialogo April 01, 2010
For more than a decade, U.S. Southern Command has sponsored the multinational
exercise Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias (Humanitarian Allied Forces), known as FAHUM,
which concentrates on improving how civilian, government and military agencies from
the United States, the Caribbean and Central America respond to natural disasters in
In the past, FAHUM — typically held before the start of the Atlantic
hurricane season — was a tabletop exercise in which participants sharpened their
skills and exchanged information. In 2009, FAHUM switched to tactical exercises
providing direct experience with disaster relief scenarios.
Practice sessions included simulations of an earthquake in Antigua and
Barbuda, a tsunami in Grenada, flooding and search and rescue missions in coastal
areas in Costa Rica and massive mudslides caused by flash floods in Honduras.
Working together with disaster assistance experts from neighboring countries,
participants and locals learned how to respond to natural disasters during these
simulation exercises that have real-life applications throughout the Caribbean and
In recent years, the Caribbean and Central America have been hit by natural
disasters such as hurricanes, mudslides and earthquakes. In 1998, Central America
was ravaged by Hurricane Mitch, with Honduras bearing the brunt of the impact while
neighboring countries received large amounts of rainfall that led to extensive
In the weeks leading up to Hurricane Mitch, countries participating in FAHUM
practiced and discussed organizational capabilities in humanitarian assistance and
disaster relief scenarios, sharing information among government agencies, local
nongovernmental organizations and private organizations to increase the ability to
respond effectively after the hurricane.
Although the exercise concentrates on Central America and the Caribbean,
observers from the Conference of American Armies have taken part in FAHUM, including
representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Canada.
Col. Rodrigo Grunert, a conference observer from the Chilean Army, said he
was grateful for the opportunity to participate in FAHUM 2009, and described the
challenges in each country as being remarkably similar. “By sharing experiences and
developing simulation exercises, we are better able to confront future emergencies
and disasters,” Col. Grunert said.