Kazakhstan: Preparing for a crisis under the Almaty sun

24 Jul 2014

June 2014, Almaty, Kazakhstan: OSOCC is designed to help affected countries to coordinate international relief efforts following a sudden-onset disaster. Credit: OCHA/A. Issabayeva
Experienced rescuers from a number of former Soviet Union countries learn the intricacies of humanitarian coordination.

Experienced rescuers from a number of former Soviet Union countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – came together in Almaty in June to take part in a  four-day training on the On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC).

Following a natural disaster, an OSOCC serves as a coordination hub, bringing together the international community in support of the affected government.

It was originally designed for search-and-rescue operations to respond to earthquakes. However it quickly proved its value and has been put to use in numerous disasters over the past decade, including floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and complex emergencies.

From practice to reality

Under the scorching sun, about 200 km outside Almaty, participants struggled with the task of coordinating a successful emergency response in a fictitious country affected by an earthquake. To make the exercise as realistic as possible, instructors played the part of different humanitarian agencies – all demanding guidance and support.

Sitting in a sweltering tent, Yuriy Burjinsky, a participant from Kazakhstan Ministry of Emergency Situations, explained: “We feel like we are in a real-life situation, working under such demanding and difficult conditions.”

Participants soon realized that working as a team in a complex, international environment presents a number of challenges. Negotiating with local authorities in another language and documenting procedures were some of the many hurdles they were asked to overcome.

A different level

“These are all experienced rescuers and in disasters they know what they are doing,” said one of the training facilitators, Grigoriy Korolkov, “But working at the international level is a whole different world and they need to learn how to operate in that world.”

The training was co-facilitated by OCHA’s Regional Office for Caucasus and Central Asia, the Russian humanitarian response agency, EMERCOM and the Republican Special Response Team of Belarus.

Top Stories