U.S. Emergency Planners Help Montenegro Prepare For Disasters

Disaster preparedness planners from the United States and Montenegro came together, June 26-29, in Podgorica to help better prepare one of the world’s youngest democracies to effectively respond to potential catastrophic events.

U.S. emergency managers from  the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Military Emergency Preparedness program under OSD and trainers joined Maine Army National Guardsmen to present America’s disaster planning procedures to Montenegrean defense and interior officials who lead the Balkan nation’s emergency preparedness and response efforts.

The four-day working session is part of the Department of Defense Civil-Military Emergency Preparedness Program – a global initiative to help countries establish a framework for security and address preparedness for the management of all types of hazards.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which executes America’s public works and engineering missions during disasters.

„The Army Corps leads this program in support of Office of Secretary of Defense to ensure member and partner countries within the North Altantic Treaty Organization alliance are prepared to respond to all disasters at a multi-national and national level,“ said Diane Acurio, the Army Corps’ program manager for CMEP.

NATO granted Montenegro membership on June 5 of this year. Representatives of the new NATO partner found value in the Army Corps’ program.

„This is an extremely valuable and helpful event for us,“ saidLjiljana Djukanovic, a senior advisor with the Montenegrean Ministry of Defense’s directorate of planning and programs for emergency situations. „We look forward to each and every workshop because it is an opportunity to get everyone involved at the table, not only our agency but also our external stakeholders, agencies and institutes that are valuable in emergency situations.“

Montenegrean officials leveraged the expertise of the American advisors to help sharpen their response plans and procedures ahead of an earthquake response field exercise near Kotor, Montenegro, later this year.

„It is U.S. experience and lessons learned that helped us and facilitated us and pushed us in developing the plans and programs for our country and we will have a much easier task,“ said Lidija Petrone Kolar,  regional chief for the Directorate of Emergency Operations, Department of the Montenegro Ministry of Interior.

„Our lessons learned and our history teaches us that when we had the 1979 earthquake, when we had floods in 2010, when we had a big snowfall in 2012, that we have to raise awareness within our community that this is still an ongoing process,“ she added.

Zdrako Bleicic, a shift commander for the capitol city’s Fire Protection and Rescue Service, agreed.

„This is extremely helpful for us, these types of workshops and events, because we are still taking baby steps in developing our standard operating procedures for our service,“ Drako. „This will help us develop guidelines for future generations.“

U.S. disaster response planners bring a value to such events because of the variety of experience they have managing disasters that have happened in America, said SFC John Knoblach.

„We have an opportunty to increase our partnership by sharing those experiences with disaster planners who are trying to figure out the best way forward for their country,“ said John Knoblach.

„in the last few years, we’ve seen dramatic  changes in Montenegro. They are growing. They are expanding their planning processes and their overall disaster preparedness to better take care of their citizens.“