Located on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo, Brunei Darussalam (hereafter “Brunei”) is a geographically small Sultanate, made up of two parts separated by a strip of Malaysian land. The country has varied terrain and a tropical climate. There are fewer than 500,000 people living in the country, and an estimated 75% of the population lives in urban areas, mostly in the coastal plains. More than 70% of the land is forested.
Despite its location in a disaster-prone region, Brunei itself is at generally low risk for natural disasters. There are floods during the northeast monsoon and transitional rainy season, but the country is not located in a typhoon path and has not suffered from large-scale flood damage. Lowlevel earthquakes have been recorded, although earthquake-related disasters are not common. The country lies along a coastline, and it is at risk of tsunami although there is no historic record of a tsunami striking it. Despite overall insulation from the region’s major hazards, given the country’s already high exposure to heavy but unpredictable rainfall, the impacts of global climate change do threaten to increase the severity of hazards confronting Brunei as sea levels rise and precipitation patterns shift.
Brunei has institutionalized its national disaster risk reduction and disaster management processes under the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), which is responsible for overseeing all phases of disaster management from risk assessment and adaptation to mitigation and recovery. Under Brunei’s whole-of-nation approach, there is close collaboration and coordination among government line ministries and security authorities such as the Royal Brunei Police Force and Royal Brunei Armed Forces. Moreover, Brunei is an active and integrated member-state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has developed mechanisms and tools for responding to disasters in a unified and coordinated way.
NDMC operates the nerve center for disaster operations at the national level and supports operations, planning, and logistics for nationallevel emergencies while each of the country’s four administrative districts also has a disaster management committee and operates a district emergency operations center. At all levels, Brunei has adopted use of an Incident Command System to command, control, and coordinate emergency response. In times of national emergency, the National Standard Operating Procedures (NaSOP) requires the Information Department of the Prime Minister’s Office to take the lead for risk communication and to coordinate with other relevant agencies and stakeholders. It communicates disaster-related information to the public via mass media, government websites, and social media channels.
Although the government provides most of the disaster risk reduction and disaster response personnel and assets, some civil society initiatives have developed. Among the key communitybased risk management partners is Brunei’s national Red Crescent Society whose 1,500 volunteers are located in all four of the country’s administrative districts. The organization’s youth cadets are a well-organized and resourced group supporting the country’s disaster management programming in schools. Moreover, the Red Crescent and its youth have regular interaction with the police and armed forces who are first responders.
As climate change exacerbates the hazards Brunei confronts, the government’s and people’s ability to implement risk reduction-oriented adaptations can be expected to become the focus of disaster management activities. Alongside its ASEAN partners, Brunei appears set to back multilateral action even as it attempts to mitigate its own contributions to sea level rise and warming trends linked to its petroleum production industry. The potential dislocations caused by changes in this major revenue earner will challenge the country’s leadership as it continues to diversify its economy while ensuring high standards of living.