Salvadoran authorities inaugurated the Administrative and Training Center for Emergencies (CAEE, in Spanish) of the General Directorate of Civil Protection (DGPC, in Spanish) on May 15, 2018, with the support of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). The CAEE building, in the municipality of Nejapa, department of San Salvador, will serve as a center to train and standardize technical skills for disaster response professionals in the country.
“This investment of more than US$ 1.7 million is part of the preventive measures, which will save lives in the future,” Jean Elizabeth Manes, U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, said at the opening ceremony. “It is a place that has the capabilities, the technology, and the ability to dispatch emergency personnel in the most efficient manner.”
CAEE is a top priority disaster preparation project for the country, as it complements DGPC’s proficiencies to train members and leaders of the National Civil Protection System. “Again, I want to thank the U.S. government and SOUTHCOM for supporting the Salvadoran people in the mission to consolidate the National Risk Assessment and Disaster Prevention System,” Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén said in his inaugural speech. “To have operations and administrative personnel in the same location guarantees the efficient and effective protection of the Salvadoran people,” he said.
SOUTHCOM invested in the construction of the building through its Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP). “The building is equipped with cutting-edge communication technology that will enable better coordination of all our operations,” said Jorge Meléndez, managing director of Civil Protection of El Salvador.
“In 2013, El Salvador requested assistance to build new facilities for Civil Protection, as the earthquakes of 2001 damaged their main operational center,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Villalobos, a representative for SOUTHCOM’s Security Cooperation Office in El Salvador. “Also, access to the previous location and mobilization in case of emergencies were limited.”
The new facilities have conference rooms for up to 100 people, an administrative office for 50 people, a warehouse for training equipment, 16 multi-purpose rooms, five multi-use areas, showers, bathrooms, a laundry room, a kitchen, meeting rooms, and a pressroom. “We decided to give our support to consolidate all operations into a single place.” Now it has a [training] center and a warehouse in the same location,” Lt. Col. Villalobos said. “Dual purpose and immediate response capabilities in emergencies will be available.”
The construction of the center began in August 2016 and ended in April 2018. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed the building to withstand earthquakes, due to the seismic nature of the terrain. Strategically located at the heart of the country, the center facilitates the transport of rescue equipment to vulnerable areas. “It’s important for SOUTHCOM to deliver the facilities to the Salvadoran government, so they now have the opportunity to work in better conditions and synchronize communication capabilities with emergency personnel,” said Colombian Army Brigadier General Juan Pablo Forero, J7/9 director of Exercises and Coalition Affairs for SOUTHCOM.
CAEE is part of the National Emergency Operations Center (COEN, in Spanish), a modern complex equipped with HAP resources that opened with the support of SOUTHCOM in August 2013. The same year, regional dependencies were built in the departments of Santa Ana, San Vicente, and San Miguel to monitor emergencies and provide a guide for humanitarian operations. The investment amounted to US$ 3.3 million.
“The comprehensive contribution meant a change in Salvadoran capabilities for disaster relief. With a modern COEN and three regional offices, we experienced a leap in the quality of service provided,” Meléndez said.
HAP works directly with government authorities of Central America, the Caribbean, and South America to identify immediate needs and strengthen capabilities in humanitarian crisis, natural and man-made disasters, as well as disease mitigation and prevention initiatives. The process consists of three steps: construction, training of local authorities in disaster relief, and provision of equipment to strengthen each country’s disaster response capability.
In October 2014, HAP provided a rescue system for two UH-1H helicopters of the Salvadoran Air Force. In addition, HAP trained a group of officers from the Humanitarian Rescue Unit of the Salvadoran Armed Force and personnel of DGPC in air search and rescue operations with donated equipment to increase response capabilities in regional disasters.