WASHINGTON, DC—During the first week in April, the Forest Service hosted leaders from the State Emergency Services of Ukraine and the Agency for Management of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The leaders convened in Arizona and New Mexico to learn about emergency response in the United States and to explore ideas for enhancing relationships, mechanisms and policies to allow personnel to work together to quickly and effectively respond to disasters.
Forest Service facilitators included Zeph Cunningham, logistics section chief, and Beale Monday, operations section chief, from the National Incident Management Organization within Fire and Aviation Management. Stu Rodeffer, safety and logistics officer from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, also helped with facilitation. The interagency facilitation team demonstrated the importance of effectively working across jurisdictions when responding to an event or disaster. Through a variety of discussions and site visits, the Ukrainian leaders received an overview of the National Incident Management System, the Incident Command System, and U.S. approaches to support systems, safety, training, community engagement and transboundary cooperation.
Since 2006, the Forest Service has worked with Ukrainian officials and CEZ personnel to address the growing rate, intensity, and size of wildfires through cooperative activities. Following the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, little vegetation management has taken place in CEZ forests, increasing the risk of catastrophic fires due to the build-up of contaminated wood.
At the end of the study tour, the participants articulated a vision to pioneer the first disaster coordination centers in Ukraine. Ruslan Beloshitsky, deputy director of the State Emergency Services, said, “I now have a clear-cut vision of what a National Coordination Center looks like and am determined to complete this once back home.”
Vitaly Petruk, head of the CEZ Management Agency, commented, “We are in desperate need within the Exclusion Zone; we have 12,000 employees within the CEZ, without coordination. I have learned that coordination centers are not about the equipment, but rather about the relationships, trust and people within them.”
This study tour was organized by the International Programs office with support from the U.S. Department of State.