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Red Cross Joins Partnership in Asia to Prepare Communities for Disasters
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August 19, 2009
Shortly after a nine-story garment factory collapsed outside Dhaka, Bangladesh after a boiler exploded in the basement, rescuers were able to save 85 people and remove 61 dead.¹ Thanks to training and equipment these rescuers received through the Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response (PEER), lives were saved.
Children in Calang, Indonesia practice a disaster simulation so they know what in the next emergency. Calang lost approximately 70 percent of its population when the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami struck.
Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

PEER, a program supported by the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance under the Agency for International Development, began in 1998, focusing on disaster preparedness in four Asian countries.  

"In the face of climate change, urbanization, environmental degradation and other global trends, the American Red Cross sees PEER as an important means to expand disaster preparedness in the most densely populated, disaster-prone region of the world" says Rebecca Scheurer, Senior Regional Advisor for Disaster Risk Reduction for the American Red Cross, based in Vietnam. 

The much anticipated third stage of PEER launched July 27-29. This stage, which includes the American Red Cross as a major new partner, will bring PEER's disaster preparedness support to communities in Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and expand over the next five years to include Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos as well.   

The American Red Cross will use its network of Red Cross and Red Crescent partners in Asia to bring this important program directly to community volunteers for the first time. In doing so, PEER will provide an opportunity for participating national societies to reinforce and expand their training curricula and staff skills, as well as facilitate closer coordination with government authorities and institutions responsible for first response, such as local fire departments.

Children running to higher ground after hearing the sound of an early warning siren. This disaster simulation is teaching residents in Calang, Indonesia where to go and what to do if another disaster strikes their community.
Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

At the meeting formally launching the program, the participants, including government ministers, disaster management heads, and Red Cross and Red Crescent society representatives, gathered to review the significant achievements made over the last decade, and set forth plans for furthering PEER in their respective countries.

In PEER's third phase, the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) in Thailand and the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) in Nepal, are uniting to expand PEER's reach and impact. Through ADPC, the American Red Cross will support the community-focused objective, targeting non-professional emergency responders and incorporating elements from successful Red Cross trainings, such as the Community Based Health and First Aid program. 

As in the previous phases of PEER, numerous universities are also adopting the training into curriculums, hospitals are utilizing PEER preparedness plans, and even local governments are making contributions to support trainings and developing official disaster management policies.

Since 1998, PEER has strengthened the institutions responsible for disaster response in Asia's most disaster prone regions to save lives and household assets,; in its new phase, with American Red Cross support, PEER will expand its reach to  protect and empower disaster-prone communities that, by virtue of proximity, are frontline first responders when disasters strike.

¹From the National Society for Earthquake Technology website (www.nset.org).

 About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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