Peru Inaugurates Emergency Response Complex with Help from SOUTHCOM

By Dialogo
June 09, 2016

Peru recently inaugurated the Regional Complex for Disaster Preparation and Response in the region of La Libertad. The installation cost more than $2 million and was financed by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). The complex will help personnel be prepared for natural disasters.

The complex was inaugurated at a ceremony held on May 17th and was attended by several U.S. and Peruvian officials, including U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert Storer, deputy chief of the Navy Section at the Office of Security Cooperation in Lima; Hilda Cruz, program coordinator, and regional Governor of la Libertad Luis Valdez.

Thanks to SOUTHCOM’s Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP), the center was built over 4,000 square meters of land donated by the regional government of La Libertad and located on the northern Pan-American Highway in the town of El Milagro, Huanchaco district.

Miguel Ángel Saldarriaga, director of the National Institute of Civil Defense (INDECI) in La Libertad, told Diálogo
, “Building this complex represents a dedication to having a greater intervention on behalf of the Armed Forces during emergency situations. Peru is located in a part of the world that is extremely vulnerable to the threats posed by earthquakes and, therefore, tsunamis. [So,] this represents important aid to be able to tackle the tasks of disaster prevention, preparation, and appropriate response .

Emergency Operations Center and more

The venue is made up of a regional emergency operations center (COER), a regional humanitarian aid warehouse, and a training center/camp. The COER requests, obtains, and shares information concerning developing hazards, emergencies, and disasters or imminent dangers in order to assist in the decision making process. The Regional Humanitarian Aid Warehouse gathers goods to distribute to families stricken by unavoidable dangers, emergencies, or disasters and, in terms of supplies, prioritizes roofing supplies, shelter, food, and tools. SOUTHCOM has constructed 18 units to improve the response capabilities of local authorities throughout the country.

“This third component is of particular importance for the Deputy Management of Civil Defense of La Libertad’s regional government because it signifies the ability to intensely train children, teenagers, and other young people by way of universities and other educational institutions in a way that we can raise new generations imbued with a culture of prevention and proper disaster risk management,” said Saldarriaga, “It also gives us the opportunity to train first responders in how to efficiently perform their work.”

Early warning system

The complex also has an early alert system; radio communication equipment; a 100 kilowatt generator that can self-supply electricity; automated systems at the doors of the main entrance and at those of the warehouse; an anti-fire system; and latest generation computers. The COER also has a crisis room, a meeting room, a communications center, coordination offices, training areas where rescue operations are practiced, and areas for care.

“The warehouse on the complex can store 5,000 humanitarian aid kits. There are 20 people who can intervene operationally in case of emergencies. Information, training, and storage for humanitarian relief goods are among the services that the complex provides to the Armed Forces,” said Saldarriaga.

On May 6th, Peruvian website Trujillo
reported that this unit will work on a mutual aid plan with the regions of Tumbes, Lambayeque, Ancash, Cajamarca, and Piura (among others). In addition, there will also be training for those in charge of the District Emergency Operations Centers (COED). These personnel must also replicate the same work for their districts.

Monitoring risks

Now that the COER is in operation, the people of La Libertad district “will be able to sleep peacefully because monitoring of all risks will happen at all hours of the day,” said the regional governor of La Libertad, Luis Valdez, during the complex’s inaugural ceremony, reported the online newspaper TrujilloInforma.

After the inauguration, three types of demonstrations were held to showcase emergency response tactics: a rescue in a confined space; repelling with ropes; and a rescue from collapsed structures.

Since 2009, SOUTHCOM, by way of its HAP, “has has invested more than $20 million in health systems, education, and disaster management in Peru. These projects are truly cooperative efforts that not only strengthen Peru’s capacity, but also the bonds of friendship between two partner nations,” Lt. Cmdr. Robert Storer told Diálogo
. The authorities associated with HAP generally work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to facilitate the implementation of these projects in Peru.

SOUTHCOM assistance

On April 19th, SOUTHCOM dedicated approximately $2 million to the construction and equipping of an operations center and warehouse in the region of Loreto in order to help Peru improve its disaster response abilities, according to news agency Andina
. SOUTHCOM had already contributed to the construction of a regional humanitarian aid warehouse in Tacna in December 2015 for the equipment that other governmental agencies need in order to respond during times of natural disasters.

Responding to a disaster not only requires “us to be prepared and trained for it. If we do not also have humanitarian aid goods that can be distributed to the people and communities affected by the disaster, we cannot save lives or recover towns that are damaged as a result of a disaster,” said Saldarriaga.

The cooperative relationship between Peru and the United States – primarily between the two countries’ militaries – is yielding positive results. “Relations between Peru and SOUTHCOM are at an optimal level. SOUTHCOM’s own representatives have shown that the Regional Emergency Operations Centers (COER) being built moving forward will follow this new model inspired by the experience of those in La Libertad,” said Saldarriaga.