Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Final trainings delivered in nine-year Southern African All Hazards program

USDA Forest Service instructor Chris Loraas facilitating sand table simulation exercise for the Incident Commander Course, Windhoek Fire Department, Namibia. USDA Forest Service photo by Tim Murphy.

NAMIBIA – From December 3-7, the USDA Forest Service International Programs office implemented disaster mitigation courses in Namibia, in partnership with and funding from the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. The courses covered various topics on the Incident Command System and National Incident Management System and were led by Tim Murphy, deputy operations specialist, Region 1; Louis Fleming, smokejumper, Region 1; Mike Gagen, fire staff officer, Custer-Gallatin National Forest; Pete Lannan, base manager, Custer-Gallatin National Forest; Chris Loraas, fire equipment specialist, Region 1; and Scott Schuster, fire management officer, Region 1.

These trainings are the final offerings in the Southern Africa All Hazards program. Since 2009, the Forest Service and OFDA have worked together to build capacity in disaster response in South Africa, with a focus on fire management. Some of the trainees from this program are now trainers in the ongoing Forest Service and OFDA training efforts in the region. In 2014, the program expanded to two more countries in Southern Africa—Namibia and Botswana—and broadened to encompass all-hazard emergency preparedness. 

Since the beginning of the Southern African All Hazards Program, a total of 4,937 emergency responders have received training from the Forest Service, both in Southern Africa and the U.S. The program has offered 188 courses and 120 participants from Southern Africa attended seminars and study tours in the United States. The instructor cadre from the United States that traveled to Southern Africa to deliver trainings included 60 certified instructors from the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Fire Department of New York and the Missoula Rural Fire District. In addition, 11 South African instructors were certified in this program, and they assisted with trainings in Botswana, India, Kenya, Namibia, and Thailand.

This program has resulted in an elite firefighting team that was deployed to Canada in 2015 to assist with international firefighting efforts, and to the United States during 2017 and 2018 to help respond to fires in Montana. South African Incident Management Teams have also assisted with flooding in Malawi and Mozambique, and wildfires in Indonesia and Chile.

Looking toward the future, the United States and South Africa have established a robust framework for building capacity for disaster management across the Southern Africa region, by helping stakeholders work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to and recover from disasters.

Class photo from Operation Section Chief and Incident Commander Courses, Windhoek Fire Department, Namibia. USDA Forest Service photo by Tim Murphy.