Security agencies in Ghana and their counterpart from the United States, Africa Command, on Monday commenced an idea-sharing forum in preparation towards any likely disaster in the country.
The event, which is the first phase of the preparations, will discuss capacities and capabilities of stakeholder agencies, including the military, police, fire service, National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and the ambulance service, to respond effectively to mass casualty events, particularly earthquakes.
Speaking at the opening of the event, Mr Ambrose Dery, Minister of the Interior, said experiences of other countries has shown that an earthquake event could destroy decades of developmental efforts of a country.
“Apart from massive loss of human life, critical social and economic infrastructure is lost. It may take several years for a less advanced and resilient nation like Ghana to fully recover from such an event,” he noted.
The Minister recalled that the last destructive earthquake event that occurred in Ghana was in 1939 adding that, Accra was the most affected, killing 17 people.
“If an earthquake of the same magnitude occurs now at about the same time of the day; with the population of Accra, which has increased from 77,000 to over three million, what would be the casualty level,” Mr Dery asked.
He questioned if the various houses were resilient enough to withstand an earthquake of such magnitude and also if there were open spaces to serve as holding place or temporary shelter for victims.
Mr Dery urged the gathering to assess the capacity of the health systems to cope with disaster and also put in place “tested plans and other back-ups to bounce us back to business quickly should there be a disaster”.
Mr Eric Nana Agyeman-Prempeh, Director General of NADMO, said Ghana continues to receive support from the United State Africa Command (US AFRICAOM) in the area of training in emergency operation, simulation exercises on flood and fire disaster.
“We agreed to move on to hold a full-scale simulation exercise this year. The capacity and capability to respond to low probability but high consequence event has never been tested so an earthquake scenario has been chosen to test our reediness to respond effectively,” he said.
Lt Col Mathew Holmes, leader of US AFRICAOM said the forum would help them to learn and better understand the Ghanaian process and situation to effectively support should a disaster occur.
“It is a way for us to both talk about our capabilities and how America can swiftly help in the area of transportation and relief response. We will share experiences to make us better prepared for low probability and high consequence emergencies like earthquakes,” he said.