Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Drill

Yesterday there was a planned emergency response drill here in Uliastai. A couple days earlier had I noticed a large, camo military pack next to my coworker’s desk in our office. As she is not in the military (that I know of…) and camo is not quite her style, I asked what it was for.

Unless all pharmacists keep one of these in their office

Unless all pharmacists keep one of these in their office

She told me there would be an earthquake drill later in the week and that she’s part of the emergency response team. Now, earthquakes aren’t super common here in Mongolia, but when they do occur, they’re generally here in the western region.

There's Uliastai, right under that nice big band of red

There’s Uliastai, right under that nice big band of red

My coworker opened up her pack and showed me what was inside: your basic emergency response stuff like food, water, whistle, flashlight, medical supplies, gloves, etc. She also had a set of military fatigues that looked very similar to the American military uniforms with the pixellated camo pattern. I found out on the day of the drill, when she was wearing them, that they were old US Marine Corps combat utility uniforms. They even had little “USMC” acronym in some spots of the pattern.

When it was time for the drill, the loud emergency sirens went off through town. My coworker put on her uniform and pack, and I followed her out because I wanted to get pictures of this. Then I realized that almost every worker in the health department was part of this emergency response team.

Some of my coworkers, getting ready to head off to the site of the drill

Some of my coworkers, getting ready to head off to the drill site

The drill took place at the big square in front of the government building. And there were a lot more people there than I was expecting. There were, of course, the police:

Including freaking riot police (and what I assume is a search and rescue dog)

Including freaking riot police (and a police dog)

firefighters:

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a monitoring/inspection/control (sorry, the Mongolian word has like 20 possible English translations) “brigade”:

And of course there was lots of marching involved

And of course there was lots of marching involved

a “communication brigade”:

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my coworkers from the health department, who made up the “psychology brigade” (you know, to calm people down after an earthquake destroys the city) and the “health staff,” along with another group of health workers from–I assume–the hospital:

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and a bunch of other groups of people whose roles I was not aware of:

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After all the marching and getting into formation, everyone had to quickly open their packs and arrange the contents so the head honchos who walked by could inspect and make sure they had everything.

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I love how the police uniforms say "POLICE" in English

I love how the police uniforms say “POLICE” in English

After everything had been inspected, they were allowed to pack everything back up. Then they were just…done. I’m assuming they had actual training for their specific duties at some point and that this was just a drill to see how quickly everyone could gather and make sure they had all the right materials. One of my coworkers told me that when they did it last year, it took an entire month, so I’m assuming that involved training. And it’s nice to know they have some kind of emergency management system in place, though it will be even nicer if they never have to use it for real while I’m here.

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