Dispatch from the Field: Vietnam

Occasionally, staff members at San Francisco DEM have an opportunity to travel abroad. They frequently write back with their observations. The following is an observation from Assistant Deputy Director, Bijan Karimi, during his visit to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Dispatch 1 - Hanoi, Vietnam

When we say community, it carries an implied context of those around you or in your immediate area. However, in the world of emergency management community can take on a much broader meaning. Natural disasters cause billions of dollars of losses and deaths each year. Winter storms in North America are very similar to monsoon storms in the Asia Pacific region. Population migration to urban centers has increased the impact on urban centers and the need for community preparedness.

Vietnam is a socialist country, run from a central government. During our first few days of the exchange we met with Ministry officials in Hanoi, committee members, NGO representatives and to discuss the challenges they face encouraging community preparation, government coordination and public private partnerships. As in the US, government, community and private sector are the three pillars that must work together to create a resilient community. Participants in all of our meetings were unanimous in their recognition of the importance of disaster preparedness. The ability to bounce back from an event as essential to encourage economic development and growth.

In 2007, the central government recognized the need to put disaster response decisions into the hands of prefecture leaders to speed response. They have also implemented a concept called '4-on-the-spot' which requires management, people, logistics and supplies to coordinate during a disaster.

When you visit somewhere new it is only natural to look for similarities and differences to your own experience. These pictures capture a few of the things that came to mind.




Now that we have met with ministry heads we can move to Hai Phong (Seattle's Sister City) and Ho Chi Min City (San Francisco's Sister City) to talk in greater detail with local ministry representatives and community organizations to understand actual implementation issues and how future exchanges can help increase disaster preparedness.

Traveler’s notes:

  • Sometimes it's better not to know what you are eating until after you have eaten it.
  • Maybe traffic signals aren't totally necessary
  • Don't assume all street numbers are sequential
  • A scooter can hold more than 4 people.

Bijan Karimi is the Assistant Deputy Director for SF DEM and is currently in Vietnam as part of a sister cities exchange through PeaceWinds America. Their focus is to discuss emergency management principles with their Vietnamese partners and explore ways they can learn from one another during future professional exchanges.