Honorable Minister, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Government of Bangladesh, Chief Guest, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Bir Bikram;
Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Government of Bangladesh, Mohammad Shah Kamal;
Additional Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Government of Bangladesh, Satya Brata Saha;
Director General, Fire Service and Civil Defense, Government of Bangladesh, Special Guest Brigadier General Ali Ahmed Khan, Passed Staff College;
Director General, Department of Disaster Management, Government of Bangladesh, Special Guest, Mohammad Reaz Ahmed;
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Government of Bangladesh, Dr. Ardhendhu Shekhar Roy;
Officials of the Government of Bangladesh;
Distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:
Assalam-u-Alaikum, nomoshkar and good morning!
On behalf of the United States Embassy in Bangladesh, I am honored to be here to help launch such an important effort. We know that our two countries benefit when we work together to solve and overcome obstacles. Our ability to respond and adapt to natural disasters is one of those challenges. By sharing and exchanging ideas, especially regarding disaster preparedness and response, we not only strengthen our ability to protect our citizens, but we save lives. That’s why the United States is committed to collaborating with the Government of Bangladesh to help establish the first-ever Bangladesh Incident Management System, or “BIMS.”
The Incident Management System is a critical element in any response to national disasters. It requires collaboration, effective coordination, and organized leadership to be successful. BIMS provides a cohesive, common approach to manage incidents, regardless of their cause, size, location, or complexity. It reduces loss of life, property, and harm to the environment.
This is vital. As you know, Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. The coastal zone faces flooding, erosion, rising sea levels, and cyclonic storm surges. These threats are exacerbated by the change in climate. Preparing for and responding to earthquakes poses yet another formidable challenge.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes take hardship and disasters to spur institutional change and force us to create more efficient systems. The United States is no exception to that. Every year, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes threaten millions of Americans. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast of the United States with incredible power. The third deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, the storm brought high winds and heavy rains that caused massive flooding and submerged 80 percent of New Orleans, a low-lying city in the state of Louisiana. Estimates put the storm’s death toll at around 1,800 people. News outlets told the horrors of those who were stranded on their rooftops and clinging to life, even days after the storm had ended. All this happened while local and Federal Agencies scrambled to coordinate who would do what, and how.
So, we understand what’s at stake, and while we have survived and persevered, we still have a lot to learn and have much more work to do. Difficult times can and should bring us together, leading to lasting transformation. As many here today have experienced, when a disaster strikes, the desire to help one another becomes second nature.
For many years here in Bangladesh, the United States Government – through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, and other agencies – has been working with the Bangladeshi Government to strengthen disaster preparedness and response. Just a few examples of these efforts include construction of multipurpose cyclone shelters, the strengthening of existing search and rescue systems, and conducting annual disaster response exchange exercises to help improve the coordinated response between the Bangladeshi Government, military and civil society during earthquakes, floods, or cyclones. I applaud the Government of Bangladesh for taking these next crucial steps to protect its citizens during national emergencies.
Earlier this month, USAID supported a Bangladeshi delegation’s visit the Philippines to see how that country has integrated a similar U.S.-supported incident management system of their own into their emergency response structure. As the next step, the workshop that will take place over the next two days will build on the experiences and lessons learned as a result of that trip.
This workshop promises to expand and build upon this initial effort by creating a blueprint for how to move forward with BIMS. In the United States, we are continuing to modify and improve our Incident Command System to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together seamlessly and manage life-threatening disasters. Importantly, we aim to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
We look forward to bringing our experience, best practices, and lessons learned to the people and Government of Bangladesh. Make no mistake – our shared goal is to see a well-functioning, coordinated system in Bangladesh that will save lives. And together, I know we will achieve that. I wish you all a successful and fruitful discussion during these next two days, and I look forward to our continued partnership.
*As Prepared for delivery