Health and Aged Care

How do you prepare for a mega-earthquake in a large, densely populated area?

Dr Jo Durham presenting at the Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange (DREE), the largest earthquake disaster-related exercise in the Asia Pacific region.

When you mention disasters and Bangladesh most people think of flooding, but did you know Bangladesh is at risk of moderate to strong earthquakes and secondary risks of tsunamis and flooding?

Image from the simulated earthquake exercise

Image from the simulated earthquake exercise

Imagine the consequences of mega-earthquake in a large, densely populated city where most structures are poorly built on soft soil and threatened by floods, and sea-level rise. These are the threats facing Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Large earthquakes are part of the region’s history but are much less frequent than floods. This means most people in Dhaka are not prepared for a large earthquake.

Recently, I was invited by the Armed Forces Division, Bangladesh as an international subject matter expert to present at the Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange (DREE) organised by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR), Armed Forces Division (AFD) and United States Army Pacific (USARPAC). DREE is the largest earthquake disaster-related exercise in the Asia Pacific region.

Dr Jo Durham receiving a token of appreciation from the State Minister, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Dr. Md Enamur Rahman.

The exercise began with a two-day exchange and presentations by subject matter experts followed by tabletop exercise where I presented to a large national and domestic audience in Dhaka on the public health impacts of earthquakes.

The Armed Forces Division simulated an earthquake

On the second day, I was honoured to go with State Minister, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Dr. Md Enamur Rahman, MP to present at a satellite conference in Rangpur and returned to participate in Dhaka for the tabletop and field exercise.

The field training exercise was huge. The Armed Forces Division simulated an earthquake, with emergency services, Red Crescent volunteers, local government and civil society organisations all playing a role in n the response.

Simulation from the Field Training Excercise

Jo with the Red Cross volunteers.

 I was in the medical cell working alongside Red Crescent volunteers and US military personnel as we recorded survivors being brought to our tent or spontaneously arriving.  We provided basic first aid and psychological first aid and stabilised and triaged injured patients. During debriefing we all reflected on the usefulness of the exercise and the challenges of making decisions in a rapid and evolving situation.

Earthquake simulations can help improve response times and on-the-ground coordination when disaster strikes. It’s great to see the Bangladesh government and army being proactive and prepared. As a lecturer in Disaster Management at QUT I am passionate about sharing these and other experiences with students, so they can learn how Disaster Management principles are applied in international, national and local contexts.

Disaster management is not just for governments; organisations, private enterprise and individuals all have a role to play when a disaster happens.

If you are likely to be involved in coordinating a response to a major incident or disaster, enrol now to benefit from the real-world experience of Dr Durham and others. QUT has been delivering disaster management and leadership courses for 10 years.

Jo teaches with her colleague Dr Sam Toloo into the four units in the field of Disaster Management:

To see full details or for more information go to: www.qut.edu.au/health/ph-short

Avatar

Prior to becoming an academic I was a Country Program Director and advisor in international development in organisations such as the UN Development Programme, UNICEF and the Ministry of Labour Social Welfare, Laos. My role was to help improve the lives of those whose health and livelihoods were damaged by war, working in countries as diverse as Lao PDR, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Lebanon, South Sudan and the Kurdish Region of Iraq. Increasingly, I was asked to evaluate programs and to show that what we did worked. With a desire to provide the highest quality evidence base for such important work so that it could inform other programs, I came to academia. Now as a teacher, researcher and evaluator at Queensland University of Technology, I bring this background to my work with governments, development agencies and communities to find practical solutions for reducing health inequities and vulnerability to disasters. I am particularly interested in working collaboratively with all stakeholders to find innovative solutions to complex or “wicked” problems in global public health that are often considered just “too hard”. Some of my partners in research and practice include the University of Health Sciences, Laos (Lao PDR), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), MANA Community Mentoring and the Ethnic Communities Council Queensland. At QUT I bring my real-world, contemporary experience into my coordination of the Graduate Certificate in Emergency and Disaster Management. The focus of my teaching is to link practice with theory to prepare graduates for the different careers within the field. I am as equally passionate about reducing health inequities and vulnerability to disasters as I am about helping to equip the next generation of evidence-based practitioners with the skills they will need to continue this necessary work.

Write A Comment