Should disaster strike once again, the United States stands ready to lend its support, resources, and expertise to the Republic of Cyprus, US Ambassador Judith Garber assured, pointing out at the same time, that Americans have benefitted directly from the heroism and efficiency of the Civil Defense team in the past.
Speaking during the emergency Disaster Equipment Handover Ceremony at CYCLOPS Training Center, Monday, the Ambassador noted that throughout her three and a half years here, the United States and the Republic of Cyprus have worked together to advance regional maritime safety and improve the island’s resilience to various crises.
“The United States is proud to do its part to ensure Civil Defense is better prepared for the next crisis. We are stronger together” -Judith Garber, US Ambassador to Cyprus
She added that in Cyprus, rising temperatures are too intensifying and drought, wildfires, and rising sea levels may threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.
“However, although certain natural disasters are inevitable, our collective responses to them are not”, she pointed out.
Ambassador Garber said in her speech that during the Lebanon Crisis of 2006, Cyprus’ Civil Defense did not hesitate to provide critical assistance to over 15,000 Americans and other foreign nationals in one of the biggest non-combatant evacuation missions in history.
“Today, the United States Embassy proudly donates eight containers of tents, cots, environmental control units, and other emergency disaster equipment valued at over $945,000 to Civil Defense’s mission”, she noted, adding that in times of crisis, the health and survival of affected populations heavily depend on the assistance, supplies, and shelter provided by local disaster management agencies.
The US Ambassador noted that natural and man-made disasters are unfortunately inevitable, noting that the international community can and must come together to address these challenges proactively.
“The United States is proud to do its part to ensure Civil Defense is better prepared for the next crisis. We are stronger together”, she said.
Commander of Civil Defense Maria Papa in her speech said that disaster management, even though directly related to emergency management, is a completely different field and requires different expertise and rationale.
She added that emergency management refers to everyday, predictable events which may be countered by the fast response of small specialized units, like the Fire Department and the Ambulance Service.
On the other hand, she said, disaster management refers to extraordinary, unexpected, large-scale events which do not happen regularly, but when they do, they have a high impact on the wider population.
“Cyprus has a dedicated Disaster Management Agency with the responsibility of dealing with the full disaster management cycle of mitigation, preparation, response and recovery. This is, the Cyprus Civil Defence Force. A major part of our daily work has to do with training and preparing the public to deal with a disaster”, Papa said.
The Commander of the Civil Defense went on to say that they train approximately 1% of the total population every year, through a network of small localized training centers. In addition, they cooperate with all of the emergency management agencies, like the Fire Department, the Police, the Ambulance Service and local hospitals, with all of the Essential Services, the municipalities and others, organizing training and executing exercises.
“We also respond to emergencies, as an auxiliary force, assisting the first responders in trying to control them before escalating to a disaster. It is because of this long-time acquired knowledge and experience in organizing and executing successful training to adults and professionals and of running training centers, that we were asked by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to undertake the management of CYCLOPS Training Center”, she added.
Papa, in her speech, also said that the aim of CYCLOPS coincides with the mandate of Cyprus Civil Defence and as such, they gladly accepted the undertaking of its management, by posting one of their senior Civil Defence Directors, as CYCLOPS Director.
She also said that a major part of their work is acquiring and storing critical items to be used as immediate humanitarian support equipment, right after the onset of a disaster. Among other items, these include the storing of tents, camp beds, bed sheets and blankets, to offer shelter to homeless people who will derive due to a disastrous event.
“It is the unfortunate truth though, that our critical stocks have been depleted over the past years due to the uncontrolled inflow of thousands of illegal immigrants who desperately needed shelter. Because of this extraordinary need, Cyprus Civil Defence was mobilized and undertook a big part of the initial effort to support the waves of illegal immigrants who arrived and continue to arrive in Cyprus. In doing so, we used many of our tents, camp beds, bed sheets and blankets and continue to do so”, Papa noted.
She went on to say that their stockpiles cannot and should not be depleted, and whenever they have to use items from critical stockpiles, these need to be filled back as quickly as possible because it is their quest to be always ready.
“We are extremely thankful to the United States of America and especially to the Embassy of the US in Cyprus, for coming to our aid, with the donation of a substantial quantity of tents, beds, bed sheets, pillows and blankets, which refill our stores and make us confident that, if needed, they will provide emergency shelter to hundreds if not thousands of civilians in need”, she concluded.