Nations to come together for civil security seminar
Stars and Stripes June 16, 2007
A multinational seminar on coping with civil emergencies will be held next month by a Garmisch-based U.S.-Germany defense institution.
Representatives from 25 nations are expected to attend the "Seminar on Transatlantic Civil Security" at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies from July 8-31.
Hurricane Katrina, the 1984 chemical plant rupture in Bhopal, India, and 2004 Madrid train bombings are examples of events that civil authorities can prepare for in a coordinated way, according to John L. Clarke, the seminar’s director.
"Many of these catastrophes are so overwhelming that our own governments are not able to handle all the consequences," Clarke said. "We need to rely on friends and neighbors."
Emergency management officials from the U.S., Europe and Eurasia will participate.
The seminar is relevant to U.S. security, Clarke said, because civil emergencies do not happen in a vacuum.
"Participants of this program will I hope develop a common picture of what the threats and hazards are," Clarke said. "What happens in one country has implications for all of us."
One massive botched effort was the U.S. handling of more than 100 international offers of help after Hurricane Katrina, much of which went unused.
"Some foreign governments sought to contribute aid that the United States could not accept or did not require. In other cases, needed resources were tied up by bureaucratic red tape," according to "The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, Lessons Learned," by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"But more broadly, we lacked the capability to prioritize and integrate such a large quantity of foreign assistance into the ongoing response."
"Valuable resources went unused, and many donor countries became frustrated," the report stated.
Clarke also pointed to the 1986 explosion of the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, in which a radioactive plume drifted across borders.
The seminar, he said, is geared toward events beyond the realm of day to day law enforcement.
"When we develop and understanding of how to manage these in a national and international context, then we’ve really achieved something," Clarke said.