Peru Bolsters Natural Disaster Response Strategy
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo March 14, 2018Due to its geographic location, Peru is vulnerable to a range of threats from natural disasters. On February 1, 2018, the Peruvian Navy set up a Modular Mobile Base (BMM, in Spanish) in the Ricardo Palma district, in the department of Lima. The base will serve as a logistics center and provide basic services to the affected population during any natural disasters.
“The installation of modular bases meets our main goal of [being able to] set up in the shortest amount of time possible at any point in the nation where a disaster or emergency arises,” Rear Admiral Manuel Bulnes Torres, commander of the Peruvian Marine Corps, told Diálogo. “We have facilities that can house personnel trained to rescue people from collapsed buildings, remove debris, evacuate the injured, and take any other necessary actions.”
The Navy also has two other modular bases. One is deployed at Paita Naval Station in northern Peru. The other is at Callao Naval Base and is to be deployed in southern Peru.
“We’ll have BMMs distributed in the north, south, and center of the country,” said to Diálogo Peruvian Navy Commander Ricardo Ingunza, Engineering Battalion commander in charge of the Marine Corps’ National Disaster Management System. “That way, we’ll be able to face potential emergencies.”
The mobile bases assigned to Lieutenant Junior Grade Juan José Jordán de Vivero Marine Corps Engineering Battalion support the National Disaster Management System, becoming first-response units in its operations. The modular units can complement one another when the scope of the disaster requires it. Such unit was deployed for the first time in 2017 in the district of Chaclacayo, in the province of Lima.
“Thanks to these BMMs, we improved our capacity to provide better living conditions to our personnel to be ready for any disaster situation,” Rear Adm. Bulnes said. “They serve as a logistics support point and operations center from which coordinated operations can be planned with the local authorities at any incident location.”
West of Lima, BMM Huarochirí meets all the conditions for security, welfare, and basic services with freezers, refrigerators, and a freshwater and wastewater treatment plant. The unit also has two power plants generating 50 kilowatts each, a 5,000-gallon freshwater tank, and a 1,300-gallon fuel tank, in addition to a warehouse and a command center.
It also counts with a voice and data communications module that allows for video conferencing nationwide. The required area for a BMM is 4,200 square meters. Two Bobcat forklifts that are part of the equipment facilitate the move of materials and supplies for installation.
The modular bases are assigned to the rapid disaster response companies created by the Marine Corps Engineering Battalion. The companies are configured into three basic elements: command, logistics, and mobility.
The command element counts with the personnel needed to keep the command center running and operational, where functions similar to those of a general staff are carried out, such as personnel management, operations, disaster or emergency monitoring, logistics, communications, and civil affairs. The logistics element, which manages mobility, carries out direct support duties to the population through its security, search-and-rescue, debris removal, and injured persons evacuation sections. But it is in the third element that the BMMs are found. The mobility elements provide support to the entire deployed unit, which can exceed 100 service members.
“BMMs are just one of the resources assigned to cope with disasters,” Rear Adm. Bulnes said. “Our Rapid Response Force is also deployed through the Peruvian Navy ships BAP Eten and BAP Tacna. Those vessels can transport humanitarian aid to other coastal sectors of the country as needed.”
Working from experience
Historically, the mountain rains give rise to dangerous conditions in the Rímac River Basin, from January to April. “Such conditions could cause disaster situations due to mudslides and the blocking of the main highway, which is vitally important to supply the capital,” Rear Adm. Bulnes said.
The operational deployments made during natural disasters caused by the coastal El Niño weather event of 2017 “proved just how effective the Marine Corps Amphibious Brigade’s human and material resources are,” Rear Adm. Bulnes explained. “The high degree of our personnel’s training for the benefit of the population was made evident.”
From that 2017 experience, and given the forecasts issued by Peru's National Weather and Hydrology Service, the decision was made to deploy the third BMM and set it up in the province of Huarochirí. The base is now ready to provide assistance if the situation calls for it. For now, the personnel carries out preventative efforts with local authorities to support the population.
“Natural disasters are recognized internationally as threats to the state and to national defense due to their destructive forces. They impact human development and the infrastructure that sustains a nation’s economic development. [That’s how] the need to use the armed forces during disaster situations arose,” Cmdr. Ingunza concluded.