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The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre)is working with a team of international specialists, supported by the U.S. Government, to develop an ASEAN Disaster Monitoring and Response System (DMRS). The system will allow the Jakarta-based Centre to visually monitor, geographically detect and synthesize multiple streams of data on hazardous events or disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, floods, and other natural disasters.

“We thank the U.S. Government for providing a team of international specialists to work closely with the AHA Centre in developing the DMRS. The system will enable the AHA Centre to have better overall capability to analyse disasters and speed up decision making,” said Said Faisal, Executive Director of the AHA Centre. Apart from the United States, the AHA Centre has also been working closely with other ASEAN Dialogue Partners, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the European Union.

The development of the system was initiated following an offer made by U.S. President Barack Obama at the First ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting in November 2009in Singapore. At this historical meeting, the ASEAN Leaders welcomed U.S. support for the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) as well as its offer of assistance to develop a multiple-hazard monitoring system for the region. Since the AHA Centre’s establishment, the U.S. Government has been working closely with the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), the AHA Centre and the ASEAN Secretariat, to materialise the offer through the development of DMRS at the AHA Centre. The ACDM comprises heads of National Disaster Management Organisations (NDMOs) in the ASEAN Member States.

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“Our team will be working closely with the AHA Centre to compile information from ASEAN Member States as well as international hazard monitoring and disaster warning agencies, and transform them into a region-wide multi-hazard event tracking and decision support tool. The system will also be linked to the ASEAN Standby Arrangement, which is a database managed by the AHA Centre on standby assets and capacities to assist affected ASEAN countries during disasters,” said Mr. Ray Shirkhodai, Executive Director of the U.S.-based Pacific Disaster Center (PDC).

PDC is providing the technical specialists and operational software, based on the PDC’s DisasterAWARE platform. He added, “the DisasterAWARE will be modified and customised to serve AHA Centre’s specific needs as well as requirements of ASEAN Member States.”

“We are pleased to be able to work closely with ASEAN in strengthening the newly-established AHA Centre’s capacity in disaster monitoring and response. We hope that with the development of the DMRS, AHA Centre will be able to serve ASEAN’s aspiration for ASEAN’srapid and collective response to disasters,” said U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David L. Carden. “The United States is proud to be one of the ASEAN Dialogue Partners that have been working closely with the AHA Centre in helping ASEAN achieve that aspiration.”

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Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, came to the AHA Centre this morning to witness the installation and handover of the DMRS at the AHA Centre, together with Ambassador Carden. “After going through what happened yesterday with the Sumatra earthquakes and tsunami watch, I feel comforted that the AHA Centre is getting a state-of-the-art technology from the U.S. When this system is fully developed, it will enhance not only AHA Centre’s disaster monitoring and response capability but also benefit the ASEAN community at large and help reduce disaster losses in the region”. The Secretary-General, who is also the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator, closely monitored the earthquakes and tsunamis yesterday along with the AHA Centre.

The development of DMRS is supported by the U.S. Government through the USAID and U.S. Department of State-funded ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility.The United States has been the Dialogue Partner of ASEAN since 1977. The United States was the very first non-ASEAN country to name an Ambassador to ASEAN and also the first non-ASEAN country to establish a dedicated Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta.