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Preparing An IT Force For Emergency Response

Emergency IT personnel are often among the first aid workers to respond in an emergency. It takes a unique set of skills to operate in such a fast-moving, high-pressure work environment. An upcoming disaster simulation organised by WFP will help emergency telecomms specialists prepare for the challenges and rigors that await them in the field.

ICT technicians at work in Haiti after January 2010 earthquake. Copyright WFP/Dane Novarlic

Emergency IT personnel are often among the first aid workers to respond in an emergency. It takes a unique set of skills to operate in such a fast-moving, high-pressure work environment. An upcoming disaster simulation organised by WFP will help emergency telecomms specialists prepare for the challenges and rigors that await them in the field.

ROME--“IT and telecommunications responders are always amongst the first to arrive on the ground in an emergency,” says Gianluca Bruni, Chief of WFP IT Emergency Preparedness and Response branch. “We need to be there first to set up the systems so that when relief workers arrive to provide assistance, they can communicate with each other to better coordinate and manage their operations and ultimately save more lives.”

As global lead of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), WFP is coordinating a new disaster simulation to further advance the emergency response capabilities of the global IT humanitarian community. Operational Exercise Bravo – OpEx Bravo - is being developed by WFP in conjunction with ETC partners World Vision International (WVI), UNICEF, the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and Samaritan’s Purse.

As first responders, the conditions IT personnel must endure are often relentlessly harsh. Personal accounts after the tropical storm in Myanmar and the earthquake in Haiti included helping to move bodies during the day, and finding cardboard boxes to have somewhere to sleep at night.

“The goal of OpEx Bravo is to give solid, hands-on field experience to IT technicians and team leaders in a complex, high-pressure environment,” says Klaus Buchm├╝ller, Head of International Division with THW. “Participants will work together in teams to deploy IT services and equipment under challenging conditions and timeframes.”

The first OpEx Bravo will be held September 3 – 9, 2012 near Stuttgart, Germany. Supported by the Vodafone Foundation and the Government of Luxembourg, OpEx Bravo will be hosted by THW in cooperation with the German authorities. 

Applications are now open for candidates with IT, telecommunications and electrical skillsets from humanitarian agencies that respond to emergencies. Technicians will need to have some experience with the tools and technologies being used.

“This exercise will build on existing inter-agency technical and management training courses,” says Klaus.  “It will allow participants to get practical experience with technical solutions adopted by the ETC for emergency response and enhance the ability of responders to safely operate outside normal urban environments.”

A key part of the design of OpEx Bravo is for participants to learn from each other, which will leverage past investment in the skill set of IT team members. “Shared experiences in high-pressure environments can help to create strong bonds, both in inter-personal relationships and in an understanding approaches different organizations take to emergency response,” says Gianluca. “One of the outcomes we expect from OpEx Bravo is the sense of a common purpose to augment coordination and collaboration in the next humanitarian emergency.”

For an outline of OpEx Bravo and to apply to participate, visit: OpEx Bravo