UNDP-supported Emergency Centres Provide Vital Information for Nepal Relief Efforts

Apr 29, 2015

The regional EOC ofice building in Hetauda, central region of Nepal. Photo: UNDP Nepal

In the chaos of Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal, whose epicenter was in the rural Gorkha district, small Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) are believed to have played a pivotal role in responding to the disaster.

As the quake crumpled scores of homes and sent people fleeing into the streets, it also wreaked havoc on communications systems across the country.

In the hours that followed, communication links between the national government in Kathmandu and regional and local authorities were sketchy, except for crucial lines of communication with EOCs.

These emergency centres in 44 districts, and two at the regional level, were the only ones relaying information in real time to the central government via the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC), of the scope of the devastation.

According to officials in the capital Kathmandu, the EOCs were active in gathering information and assessing the situation. With that critical information, the government was able to determine its response for search and rescue operations and deploy emergency teams to the most affected areas, and may well have saved lives.

“NEOC has been instrumental in better coordinating search and rescue and relief efforts internally and externally, and mobilizing national and international resources,” said Baburam Bhandari NEOC chief. “The response from the very first hour has been managed through the NEOC and all the ministries are providing support under the leadership of the NEOC.”

Kedar Babu Dhungana, a senior disaster risk reduction officer with the UNDP noted that: “Emergency Operating Centres did a great job at all levels and played a key role in coordinating national and international humanitarian aid teams.”

The set-up of EOC’s was initiated by Nepal’s government in 2010 to try to improve coordination between the central government and regional and district officials, to better respond to disasters such as floods and fires, and boost search and rescue capabilities.

So far, 47 EOC’s have been set up with support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), with funding from UKAid for district level EOCs, and AusAid for the National EOC.

The emergency centres – generally manned by three person teams – operate around the clock and are equipped with emergency search and rescue equipment, wireless radio communication systems, computers and printers.

They conduct regular emergency surveillance, plan and map disaster preparedness of districts, monitor disasters as they occur, and relay information back to the NEOC. Part of their job also involves maintaining regular contact with communities and local police, as well as the local Red Cross.

Given the vital role of EOCs in several disasters over the past few years, the goal of the government is to have EOCs in every district and even some at the municipal level.

“The EOCs played their role on Saturday morning and have proved that it is imperative to invest in and be prepared for any and all disasters,” said Kedar Babu Dhunguna of the UNDP. 

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