Disaster Preparedness Nepal – a switchboard concept

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On October 21st 2011, members of various organization involved in the disaster prepared for Nepal met at the US Embassy. Members of this team were able to discuss various aspects of disaster management pertaining to Nepal. Find below the minutes of the meeting and the Power Point presentation regarding the switchboard concept.

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Meeting Minutes
Disaster Risk Reduction/Disaster Preparedness
Date: Friday, 21 October 2011 Time 2 PM
Venue : US Embassy Kathmandu Nepal

Attendees:
1. HE Scott De’Lisi, US Ambassador
2. David Attebery, Director, USAID Katmandu
3. Sheila Roquitte, Director DRR Office
4. Terry White, Counselor for Public Affairs
5. Santosh Gyawali, Senior Development Program Specialist DRR Office USAID
6. Mark Turner, GSO, US Embassy
7. Clay K Adler – Consul, US Embassy
8. Bal krishna Parajuli – Development Program Office – DRR Office
9. Lynda Kentro, Health & Family Planning
10. Ryan Bartlett, DRRO, US AID
11. Jessy J Connelly (Engineer), Facility Management Officer, US Embassy
12. Kerry Singleman, Nurse US Embassy
13. Binod Dhakal (Engineer)– Sd. V.P. CAN
14. Kanhaiya Kayastha (Struct’l Engr), BOD, ASNEngr
15. Bijay Niraula (MBA) – Sr. Member CAN USA
16. Dr. Pradeep Vaidya – ANMF
17. Dr. Rajendra Shrestha – V.P.,ASNEngr
18. Amod Dixit – E.D. NSET

Proceedings:
I. Introduction:
a. Introduction of US Officials
b. Introduction of representatives of Nepalese Diaspora in the US and Joint Steering Committee of the CAN USA, ANMF, & ASNEngr
II. Scott DeLisi
a. Welcome
b. Highlighted the role of NRN and specifically an organization like the Disaster Preparedness steering committee as being instrumental for disaster risk reduction in Nepal – such alignments can help in responding to a large disaster like an earthquake in Nepal and more importantly prepare for it before it happens. HE Delisi added that the experience and knowledge gained by the US Nepali Diaspora and ASNEngr can very well be utilized in Nepal and that the US Embassy can help in coordinating their efforts.
c. Emphasized the US Embassy’s commitment to work together with Government of Nepal (GON), and other partners to develop capacity for being able to respond properly. He stated that 19 months ago the Embassy did not have special program for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) – now it has 5 people dedicated to DDR with Sheila in our DRRO.
d. Noted the fact that other sections of Embassy are also engaged in DRR in their respective activities.
e. The Ambassador highlighted the fact that the US Government wants to build up rapport with GON in disaster risk reduction. Listed below are some actions to that effect.
i. Recently met with the PM and worked with him to raise DRR issues with India – the Earthquake. Ambassador stated that disaster management in Nepal requires both countries to develop coordinated efforts.
ii. The Ambassador conveyed that he has also talked with the Indians.
iii. PM and GON appreciated the works done by US Embassy in Nepal.
f. The Ambassador stated that the US Government with will continue to be a partner and help build partnerships.
III. Presentation by Bijay Niraula
a. Switch Board Portal concept (Power Point presentation attached),
i. Presentation highlighted the need for transparency of data/information. Major emphasis on democratization of information and empowering the youth to “asset-map” their neighborhoods.
ii. During the process of training for DRR, instill in the citizenry (especially the internet savvy youths) the idea of creating a system and using it.
iii. Any type of system creation is usually opposed by the ruling bodies. System provides transparency. Transparency prevents embezzlement of funds and other resources.
iv. The presentation also emphasized the role of off-line component like newspapers, radio stations, and public service announcements (PSA).
b. Ambassador greatly appreciated the presentation. When the idea of PSA using cartoon characters (possibly through animation studio like Incessant Rain), the Ambassador was excited to convey that such measures were already in progress and the Embassy was already working in this respect. He stated that many parts of the presentation were in alignment with the DRR strategies of the US Embassy in Nepal and again emphasized the need for partnership.
c. The Ambassador was specifically appreciative of the mitigation part of the presentation. He pointed out that even more can be done in this respect than what the presentation put forth. Instead of just waiting for the system to kick in when disaster happens, the idea of creating a platform for public participation is extremely important. The greater benefit of a portal like this would come from training the youths while preparing for a disaster.
d. Amod Dixit and Binod Dhakal also emphasized the importance of an information processing hub like the Switch-Board. Amod stated that we need more co-ordination between the different stake holders of disaster management. A system like this would enable such coordination. Binod Dhakal highlighted the fact that CAN has 55 affiliates through-out Nepal (8 zonal CAN & 47 district CAN). Such affiliates could be mobilized immediately to populate the data on a system like this. Beside this CAN will also consult with the Nepal Government about the issue to take initiation in the Government level. For the technological development & empowerment of people exchange/transfer of knowledge & technology through the network of CAN & CAN-USA was also noted by Binod.
IV. The Ambassador and Director of USAID left for a prior engagement.
V. Dr. Rajendra Shrestha and Er.Kanhaiya Kayastha made a brief presentation focusing on the Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Relief for Nepal Positon Paper Draft. This paper is scheduled to be finalized and published by the end of November 2011. Kanhaiya distributed the copy of the ASNEngr’s March 31, 2010 position paper abstract to all the participants.
VI. It was brought to notice that the ANMF/ASNEngr/CAN-USA joint initiative paper highlights recommendations and challenges to be faced and the various steps that are needed to be taken immediately, as a part of the preparation phase in the EQ disaster mitigation and response plan.
VII. Ms. Sheila clarified that due to their limited resources available with the US Embassy, they could only play an important role in the coordination efforts. Financing can be effected through other bodies like the USAID, ADB, World Bank and other donor agencies who have on-going disaster mitigation and response programs. The Embassy, however, can help co-ordinate with the UN Plans, contact ICIMOD, find resources, help GON in planning and management. It can also help with working with the private sectors and media, and bring general public awareness. The US Military is already working with the Nepal Army. All of these efforts will increase the preparedness and reduce vulnerability to earthquake damages in the country.
VIII. Amod stated that NSET was already involved in the process of upgrading the national building code under the UNDP Nepal’s Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Program (CDRMP). Kanhaiya informed that the Institute of Engineering (IOE) was also in the process of upgrading the building code and that there should be only one upgraded building code for consistency. Amod requested the Nepali Diaspora and ASNEngr experts to help in this regard and share the knowledge and experience gained by them in US.

IX. Sheila then briefed the team on the US Governments involvement in Nepal for DRR:
a. Budget environment in the US is tight these years, nonetheless, USG is putting up efforts in DRR knowing the risk. Last month, USG conducted an assessment on the needs and how USG should strategies to incorporate DRR into it development assistant strategy to Nepal
b. Assessment resulted in identifying three major objectives:
i. Preparedness to Respond
ii. Advocacy & awareness building
iii. Mitigation – Building Resilient Communities
c. Objective 1- Preparedness to Respond:
i. Ensure that good response plans and work on those plans
ii. US as Nepal military exercise
iii. UN Clusters contingency planning and how they are synchronized with the military plans
iv. Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response (PEER) including Medical First Response (MFR) and Collapsed Structure Search and Rescue (CSSR)
v. Community Level Preparedness
vi. Early warning system, include regional perspective especially in flood disaster reduction
d. Objective 2- Advocacy and Awareness Building (don’t cost lots of money)
i. Helping GON in mainstreaming DRR into planning, budgeting,
ii. Awareness alone can change the risk equation
iii. Engaging with the private sector – media in all stages of disaster progression from “before” to “during” to “after”.
e. Objective 3 – Mitigation (Building Resilient Communities)
i. Health, environment, food security, infrastructure) – US does not fund infrastructure in Nepal
ii. Want to work with other donors and GON to help with TA to top off.
iii. USG wants smart investment, not new investment resources but to use the existing resources smartly for scaling up the benefits.
X. Lynda Kentro reminded about the practice of SWAP – it allows GON to make decision about using the collective resources of various donors the way it wants
XI. Dr. Pradeep stated the Government and the Health Cluster were already retrofitting various hospitals in the country and 4 hospitals have been hallmarked for the disaster preparedness priority in the initial phase, followed by 3 more in the second phase. Similarly, NSET has assisted more than 65 public schools in retrofitting of the school buildings with core funding from USAID/OFDA in the past decade and since last year, NSET has been providing technical assistance to the Department of Education in seismic retrofitting of more than 65 school buildings under the Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium (NRRC). He also pointed out that
there is a lack of coordination among the stakeholders in Nepal although many are doing lot of good work.

Kanhaiya pointed out the strict norms and standards in retrofitting schools and hospitals must be established before carrying out the full-swing retrofitting program because such retrofitting designs must be 25% to 30% higher than for other normal buildings. If this was not established now, then different hospitals within the country shall be retrofitted differently, and therefore, may not respond as desired during future earthquakes. It was felt that ASNEngr’s involvement in this regard would be very useful.
XII. There is a general frustration that there is no system and no plan – for example in Building Code Implementation the process is not well defined and not supported.
XIII. Ms. Sheila felt the necessity of upgrading the current building code, formulating a separate seismic-retrofitting code, make a list of the hospital retrofitting standards, in addition to making typical standard details for retrofitting residential housing which Kanhaiya had suggested. These typical details should be freely available to the home owners at the public counter of all municipalities in the country, during building permit issuance.
XIV. Ms. Sheila and Jesse Connelly (Engineer) appreciated the idea of the building code upgrades, preparing typical standard retrofitting details for home owners and offered the Embassy’s help in coordinating among various stakeholders in this regard.
XV. Similarly, Santosh stated that USAID was involved in various US aided projects in Nepal and was ready to coordinate projects with the US Nepali Diaspora and ASNEngr.
XVI. Ms. Carry talked about the existing SWAPP program. Recalled that there were various other existing programs running e.g,. FLAGSHIP, Hospital Safety programs, and so on.
XVII. Finally, the meeting was concluded on Kanhaiya’s suggestion that a working committee should be immediately formed, coordinated by US Embassy/USAID, with members from the concerned stakeholders, in order to achieve the above mentioned goals as well as to carry out the suggested recommendations contained within the ANMF/ASNEngr/CAN-USA joint initiative position paper on Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Relief for Nepal (planned to be available, hopefully, by the end of November 2011).
XVIII. Meeting adjourned

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