LESSONS LEARNED FROM A BI-NATIONAL EXCHANGE BETWEEN COLOMBIA AND THE UNITED STATES: REAL-LIFE EMERGENCY PLANNING AND PREPAREDNESS FROM A WORST-CASE SCENARIO
As an opportunity to learn from the Nevado del Ruiz disaster and the subsequent planning by Colombian authorities, a ten-member delegation from Washington State representing Federal, state, and local emergency managers, planners, and scientists visited Colombia in August 2013 as part of a bi-national exchange with their Colombian counterparts. Participants viewed effects of the 1985 eruption and the Colombians’ more recent mitigation efforts. The most striking lessons learned by US participants concerned the importance of pre-designated and well publicized evacuation routes, information hubs, community involvement in all aspects of planning and preparedness, and frequent exercising of notification devices and evacuation. Subsequently, ten Colombians visited Washington State in September 2013 to learn from our efforts in volcano preparedness and mitigation.
Using new knowledge about effective eruption preparations, U.S. bi-national exchange participants are expanding efforts for preparedness and mitigation in communities at risk. Some examples include: preliminary development of a statewide volcano awareness/preparedness plan in Washington, and upgraded Pierce County evacuation maps, information kiosks placed around the county; development of new Mount Rainier Volcano Hazards website (http://www.piercecountywa.org/activevolcano); local FEMA-USGS Volcano Crisis Awareness trainings and plan exercises; and almost two dozen public presentations during the 2014 Volcano Preparedness Month.