For the first time in 47 years, Solomon Islands has reviewed its Savo Island volcano disaster management plans.
The volcano was the focus of a planning workshop between ADF personnel and the country’s key emergency and disaster response agencies in the capital Honiara.
Conducted as part of Exercise Longreach, the tabletop exercise was led by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), ahead of a week-long field activity in November.
Providing the opening remarks to the workshop, Solomon Islands Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, Chanel Iroi, said the exercise was high on his country’s priority list.
“This is critical because any volcanic eruption on Savo Island would have a devastating impact on the environment, properties and lives of people, not only on the island itself, but on other neighbouring islands, including Guadalcanal and the capital Honiara,” Mr Iroi said.
He said Pacific Island countries such as Solomon Islands were heavily dependent on police for response efforts, and cooperated with regional partners to deal with natural disasters.
“Thus the importance of this collaboration between the Australian Defence Force, NDMO and the RSIPF through this Savo Volcano tabletop exercise,” he said.
Exercise Longreach is a series of ADF-facilitated humanitarian and disaster response (HADR) exercises that are conducted annually across the Pacific.
The Australian lead, Major Christopher Moroney, said this year’s exercise provided a platform to enhance Solomon Islands and Australian HADR interoperability and cooperation.
Speaking during the Honiara workshop, he said the situation in New Zealand – where scientists increased the alert level on the giant Taupo volcano – was a timely reminder of the importance of this type of disaster planning.
Mr Iroi said the disaster response scenario in November would include elements of ministries that form part of the Solomon Islands National Disaster Committee, along with role players from the Savo Island community and personnel from the ADF and DFAT.
The Pacific Support Vessel ADV Reliant will also be employed during the exercise in its core role as an Australian HADR support platform for the Pacific region.