The Australian Defense Force (ADF) – Solomon Islands Government (SIG) Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Risk Response Program 2022 Exercise Longreach – Savo Volcano Table Top Exercise concluded in Honiara on Friday 23rd September 2022.

The exercise was conducted by personnels from the ADF, National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and Geology and Survey Division in the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The Tabletop Exercise is the initial step taken to collect information that will help a technical team to review the evacuation plan developed some forty seven years ago (1975) for the people of Savo if the volcano shows signs of a possible eruption.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop Deputy Secretary Technical in the Ministry of Environment Climate Change Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM) Mr Channel Iroi said that since the World Risk Index published in 2021 showed Solomon Islands is ranked 2nd as the country with the highest disaster risk worldwide, it is important that such steps a taken to try and mitigate the impacts of the various disasters the country is exposed to.

He said recent disasters of the 2013 Santa Cruz Earthquake and Tsunami, 2014 Honiara Flash Floods, the 2016 Makira Earthquake and Tsunami, 2017 Tinakula volcanic eruption, 2019 MV Solomon Trader Oil Spill Disaster (Maritime and Environmental Disaster) on Rennell, later MV Quebec Oil spill on Santa Cruz, the COVID-19 global pandemic and the frequent rioting are live experiences that only confirms Solomon Islands status as being the second country with the highest disaster risk globally.

Mr. Iroi said today the dynamics of disasters are changing rapidly, therefore Government through the National Disaster Council (NDC) over the last 36 years since the establishment of the 1st disaster Management plan has been striving and continue to explore, develop and implement disaster risk resilience activities through the NDMO, the NDC/N-DOC sector committees and the PDC/P-DOC sector committees. The 2018 Disaster Management Plan currently in use is the 3rd of the country’s DMP after the 2010 one was reviewed and replaced.

“This is the evidence of the changing dynamics in disaster management, where at the country level, the Solomon Islands Government and its Disaster Management stakeholders need to continuously be at the top of the game with updated preparedness, response, relief and recovery mechanism that would ensure that the current Disaster Management Plan is effectively and efficiently executed” Mr Iroi said.

In this times when disasters are becoming more frequent and intense, countries like Solomon Islands will be heavily dependent on Police and Foreign Military assets to conduct response and relief operations therefore the partnership of the NDMO and RSIPF with ADF in this Tabletop exercise is very important given their roles in Civil Military Coordination in times of disasters.

“The 2007 Western earthquake and tsunami and the Honiara flash floods response and relief operations were two of the major operations that highlighted the evidence and demonstrated the practicality on the need of Civil-Military Coordination during disasters, and Collaborations in building capacity and capability in peace time. Thus, the importance of this collaboration between the Australian Defense Force (ADF), NDMO and the RSIPF through this HADR Savo Volcano Tabletop Exercise”

Providing a summary of the whole idea behind the Tabletop Exercise, Deputy Director NDMO Mr. George Baragamu said it is the 1st time in 47 years that the country has taken the step to review the Savo volcano evacuation plan. He said after the workshop a technical working group will set up with their terms of reference. The Technical working group will then start working on the review of the 1975 Savo Evacuation plan using information form the Tabletop Exercise.

The workshop is attended by officers from the Health, Education, Protection, Livelihood and Infrastructure sectors.

Source: MECMD Press