U.S. Southern Command Supports Guatemalan Disaster Response

U.S. Southern Command Supports Guatemalan Disaster Response

By Dialogo
September 30, 2015

I have read [about] the CONRED-Guatemala display and there are two observations to be made: 1st, Escuintla is not a southern department since its southern border is the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala City, Sacatepéquez, Chimaltenango, Baja Verapáz and El Progreso are southern; 2nd, CONRED originates as a result of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 during the administration of Mr. Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen; when Stan [happened] CONRED was already 7 years old.

Guatemala's executive secretariat of the of the National Coordinator for Disaster Response (CONRED) has opened a Rapid Response Facility (CRI, for its Spanish acronym) in the southern department of Escuintla, serving an area that's home to 2.6 million and prone to flooding and landslides.

The facility, located near the capital, was built on 12,797.61 square meters of land provided by the Ministry of National Defense. The United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) also contributed to the effort, donating $96,000 in equipment and funds to the CRI. That figure includes $60,000 worth of personal protective equipment for 60 members of the CONRED’s Emergency Response Team (ERI), who will also receive new and updated supplies; the rest of the funds will go towards acquiring other equipment and tools that ERI members will use to provide humanitarian assistance for those affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods.

Opened on August 18, the CRI features an asphalt parking lot with a capacity for 30 vehicles and two parking areas for trucks in the platform area of ​​the main warehouse, a 441-square-meter warehouse, two bathrooms, an administrative office, and a communications office. All of these host pre-positioned human assistance equipment that the ERI will use in the six departments that comprise CONRED Region II: Escuintla, which is the regional headquarters; Sacatepeque; Chimaltenango; Jalapa; Jutiapa; and Santa Rosa.

CONRED responds quickly to emergencies

CRIs are positioned in strategic locations throughout Guatemala, allowing for quick responses to emergencies, explained Guatemalan Minister of Defense, Brigadier General William Mansilla.

“Guatemala is a country with many hazards and we must be prepared for any situation that may occur,” said CONRED Executive Director Alejandro Maldonado Lutomirsky. Consequently, “given that we are aware of this, we keep the different Rapid Response Facilities supplied nationwide.”

Authorities plan on building another five CRIs throughout the country, increasing the total number to 30. “It’s part of a program to better serve the population.”

CONRED spokesman David de León echoed those remarks, adding that the donated equipment will aid in their mission. “This will allow assistance to arrive more rapidly when something happens in this region.”

CONRED formed to bolster emergency response

Guatemalan authorities formed CONRED in a response to Hurricane Stan, which impacted 15 departments in October 2005, as its floods and mudslides killed 1,500 people, left as many as 3,000 people unaccounted for, and caused $50 million in crop damage. Its approach of preparing to respond quickly to emergencies is crucial, according to Vinicio Sarazúa, a spokesperson for the Guatemalan Red Cross.

“Preparation is key to reducing the impact of disasters.”