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Apr 25, 2019

Washington Military Department

Guard, EMD team up on Malaysian trip to talk Oso landslide lessons

Posted by Washington Military Department

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With a focus on building relationships among emergency management professionals, the Washington Emergency Management Division and Washington National Guard participated in the first Malaysian Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) Civil-Military Course at the Malaysian Armed Forces Officer Mess, Wisma Perwira, April 17-19, 2019.

Chris Utzinger, the response section manager for the Washington Emergency Management Division, traveled to Malaysia, as part of the State Partnership Program, to help teach lessons learned from the Oso landslide that happened back in March 2014.

“I had a chance to meet a group from Malaysia when they visited Camp Murray last year,” Utzinger said. “We had a great conversation about preparedness and best practices and I’m so happy they invited me to visit their country and help them more. It was an amazing opportunity.”

The trip was made possible due to a formal agreement signed in August 2017 by Malaysia and Washington as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program.

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Utzinger and LTC Jonathan Steinbach, Chief of Staff for the Washington National Guard Homeland Response Force, both talked about the Oso landslide, which shut down State Route 530 and tragically took the lives of 43 people in what was then the largest landslide in U.S. history.

“Our presentation focused on the civilian-military collaboration in a federally supported, state managed, and locally executed response effort as well as on the use of the incident management system,” Utzinger said.

Utzinger and Steinbach came up with a bunch of questions for the participants to think about if there was a landslide in their communities, including how to handle spontaneous volunteers, when the decision is made to stop searching and who would be in charge.

“These questions led to very engaged discussions among the course participants and follow-on questions,” Utzinger said. “On the Incident Command System, there were extended discussions around the concepts of unified command and delegations of authority. This came as no surprise as these topics require thorough explanation in state-side ICS courses as well.”

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During a planning conference in August 2018, a group of delegates from Malaysia, led by Maj. Gen. Dato’ Hj Roshaimi bin Zakaria, Assistant Chief of Staff Defense Planning Division, Malaysia Armed Forces, focused on emergency management and resiliency. Leaders agreed that establishing relationships between the Washington Emergency Management Division and the National Disaster Management Agency – Malaysia (NADMA) would benefit both partners and allow for further exchanges in the future.

“We want to not only build stronger partnerships, military to military, but expand civilian partnerships as well,” said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the adjutant general for Washington state during the conference. “Part of the long-term success will include emergency management.”