NEW YORK / BRINDISI, Italy, 28 October 2015 –
News reports are coming in of a major emergency in Brinland. The Government is already requesting international support, with thousands feared dead. Following activation of UNICEF’s Corporate Emergency Procedure for a Level 3 emergency, the organization deploys its Immediate Response Team (IRT) to be on the ground in 48-hours to support the Brinland Country Office.
Brinland is of course a fictional place. However, the scenario is very real. This is UNICEF’s Emergency Response Simulation exercise, designed to sharpen the skills of staff to respond in an effective and timely manner following a sudden-onset crisis.
“We need to be as best prepared as possible when emergencies strike,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Director of the Office of Emergency Programmes. “This simulation plays a critical role in honing our knowledge and skills to ensure we provide the best support possible to children affected by such crises,” she added.
The 7-day simulation was designed in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) who developed the initial exercise to focus on logistics. The UNICEF training is tailored to include a full programmatic and operations response, from cluster coordination to innovative programme design.
“What we are trying to do is really replicate a normal emergency response,” said Jean-Cedric Meeus, Chief of UNICEF Supplies in the West and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO). “We hope to see that the participants go through all the relevant policies to address the needs and different issues that children could have.”
The pressure rises as the emergency evolves and the teams cope with a flood of information, phone calls, and in-person interactions designed to keep the scenario flowing. The exercise helps to ensure that both participants and facilitators are up to date with and can put into practice UNICEF’s latest Simplified Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) for Level 3 emergencies. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to understand whether the policies and procedures are fit for purpose.
As in real life, the situation becomes more complex as the scenario unfolds. Despite many developments, time is limited and participants need to deliver a response almost immediately. Lifesaving assistance, building national capacities and leveraging on the regular programme are all articulated.
With the increasing humanitarian caseload, UNICEF continues exploring ways to enlarge its pool of staff ready to be deployed to emergencies. The Emergency Response Simulation is one component of humanitarian learning to strengthen capacities to respond to Level 3 emergencies.