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ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise, was successfully in 2023 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

ARDEX, the ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise, was successfully held 1-3 August 2023 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. ARDEX 2023 was organised by BNPB, the Indonesian national disaster management organisation, and the AHA Centre, with the support of the European Union through the EU-SAHA Project and with the participation of LACER experts.

The purpose of ARDEX, which is generally conducted every two years, is to test and evaluate regional processes and capabilities through a full-scale simulation exercise which activates ASEAN’s emergency response and disaster management mechanisms at different levels. At the strategic level, ARDEX helps to test guidelines for ASEAN’s standby arrangements, processing requests and offers of assistance, and cross-border mobilisation of resources. At the operational and tactical level, ARDEX tests ASEAN’s command and control structure, interoperability of response teams from member states, and capacities such as casualty management. The AHA Centre is engaged in ARDEX given its experience in organising simulation exercises on a regular basis to test regional emergency response mechanisms. In addition, AHA Centre was called upon during ARDEX 2023 to mobilise its ASEAN-ERAT team (Emergency Response and Assessment Team) to assess the unfolding disaster.

With the pageantry and grandeur typical of major ASEAN events, the opening ceremony was inaugurated by the Indonesian Minister for Coordinating Human Development and Culture Muhadjir Effendy and welcome speeches by head of BNPB Lt. Gen. Suharyanto and the European Union represented by Lukas Gajdos, Chargé d’Affaires at the EU Delegation to ASEAN. Thereafter followed an academic session explaining the context of the disaster scenario and the existing means of response in ASEAN and Indonesia.

The event scenario of ARDEX 2023 was a magnitude 6.6 earthquake with the epicentre close to Yogyakarta. The city and its surrounding area are geologically susceptible to regular earthquake force and wave propagation from an active fault located proximate to the urban zone (10km). Previous seismic events, such as the Yogyakarta earthquake of June 8, 2011, have caused significant damage and casualties across a wide area. During the ARDEX simulation, vital infrastructure was affected, such as loss of the power grid, disturbed communication service from collapsed BTS towers, loss of clean water, and damage to medical service units, fuel stations, and schools.

During the Academic Session, AHA Centre’s Dipo Summa presented on the role of ASEAN entities and national authorities in planning and coordinating a disaster response, highlighting the large number of responses led by AHA Centre over the past decade.

The setup of the ARDEX 2023 exercise began with a tabletop exercise (TTX) testing strategic decision making, while days 2 and 3 highlighted response capabilities in a command post exercise (CPX) and tactical level skills tested in a full scale exercise (FTX). A drill was conducted to highlight entry procedures.

Participants included more than 180 players from nine ASEAN Member States and over 500 national and local players gathered in Yogyakarta. Among those joining were military and civilian response units from ASEAN member states, such as a military urban search and rescue (USAR) team from Vietnam and civilian teams from the Fire and Rescue Department of Brunei Darussalam (BFRD) and Singapore. This marks ARDEX as the largest disaster and emergency response simulation exercise in the ASEAN region.

The CPX and FTX took place outdoors at the Sultan Agung Stadium in Yogyakarta, featuring live rescue components, casualty management, rubble removal and firefighting, and drone surveillance of the disaster. USAR and emergency medical teams (EMT) from the locally affected Bantul government undertook life saving and evacuation of affected populations, while district level authorities requested support from provincial and national level agencies related to USAR and EMT. The simulation featured a heavy load of affected people (+40,000) as well as aftershocks with secondary effects such as liquefaction and landslides in rural districts. With the support of UNOCHA and AHA-ERAT teams, coordination cells such as OSOCC/JOCCA* were established to ease the request process for international aid, along with a coordinated approach to distribution of aid.

*On-site Operations Coordination Centre / Joint Operations Coordination Centre

Recorded version of the exercise is available: