Posted by: Carole Cameron, director, FEMA International Affairs
Unbeknownst to many, building and strengthening our partnerships with the international community is a large focus for us at FEMA. We are an increasingly global society, and the many disasters that have struck our friends and colleagues around the world this past year, from the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the earthquake that struck New Zealand are a reminder that we are all in this together. In fact, as some of you remember, our Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, Tim Manning, happened to be in Christchurch when the earthquake struck and immediately joined up with local emergency responders to help with search and rescue missions. In addition to other types of aid, the U.S. sent FEMA-trained and funded Urban Search & Rescue teams to help with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of the devastation in both New Zealand and Japan. And this past spring, many of our international partners participated in our annual national preparedness exercises, the National Level Exercise 2011.
We may live in vastly different places, but we’re part of the same team – and we have a lot to learn from each other in the international community. That was the goal of our meeting with Russia’s emergency management team: to explore ways we could learn from each other and new opportunities for partnerships. A lot of our dialogue focused on the widespread fires Russia faced in 2010, and lessons learned from their response, which used both civilian and military resources for the first time in years. We also shared our collective lessons learned from the Japanese earthquake and how we were able to deploy our respective urban search and rescue teams. Finally, we visited one of our Urban Search & Rescue teams, Massachusetts Task Force-1 in Beverly, which recently helped respond to the tornadoes that swept through parts of the state in early June.
This was not Administrator Fugate’s first meeting with Russia EMERCOM Minister Sergei Shoigu, who he visited last summer – but it did reinforce that disasters are not a unilateral issue. As a global society, we all have to help each other as we deal with similar threats and hazards. We are part of the same team, and we will all be more resilient and well-equipped to deal with emergencies if we tap into each other’s knowledge, experiences and resources. We thank our Russian partners for joining us in Boston and look forward to continuing to build this critical partnership.