Volcano-hazards Education for Emergency Officials Through Study Trip Learning—The 2013 Colombia-USA Bi-national Exchange

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Carolyn L Driedger and John W Ewert, USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, Vancouver, WA, United States
A central tenant of hazard communication is that colleagues with principal responsibilities for emergency planning and response sustain a ‘long-term conversation’ that builds trust, and increases understanding of hazards and successful protocols. This requires well maintained partnerships among a broad spectrum of officials who are knowledgeable about volcano hazards; credible within their communities; and who have personal and professional stake in their community’s safety. It can require that volcano scientists facilitate learning opportunities for partners in emergency management who have little or no familiarity with eruption response. 

Scientists and officials from Colombia and the Cascades region of the United States recognized that although separated by geographic and cultural distance, their communities faced similar hazards from lahars. For the purpose of sharing best practices, the 2013 Colombia-USA Bi-national Exchange was organized by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the Washington Emergency Management Division, with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Nine Colombian emergency officials and scientists visited the U.S. to observe emergency response planning and protocols and to view the scale of a potential lahar disaster at Mount Rainier. Ten U.S. delegates visited Colombia to absorb best practices developed after the catastrophic 1985 eruption and lahars at Nevado del Ruiz. They observed the devastation and spoke with survivors, first responders, and emergency managers responsible for post-disaster recovery efforts.

Delegates returned to their nations energized and with improved knowledge about volcanic crises and effective mitigation and response. In the U.S., trainings, hazard signage, evacuation routes and assembly points, and community websites have gained momentum. Colombian officials gained a deeper appreciation of and a renewed commitment to response planning, education, and disaster preparedness.