October 14, 2022
Remarks by AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk
HADR First Responders Training Workshop in Penghu
October 14, 2022
Magistrate Lai, Council Speaker Liu Chen, Vice President Chiu, Executive Director Wu, and Dr. Hsiau, distinguished members of the Taiwan Development Association for Disaster Medical Teams (TWDMTDA), and participants of today’s training workshop – good morning!
It is a pleasure for me to be here today and for the American Institute in Taiwan to partner with TWDMTDA to kick off the final of a series of training sessions around Taiwan highlighting U.S.-Taiwan cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. I was told this is also the first-ever First Responders training that has been held for the general public on an outlying island of Taiwan.
I want to take this opportunity to say that our hearts go out to the family and friends of those killed and injured during the recent earthquakes. Taiwan’s effective, professional response to natural and man-made disasters is a model for the region and a foundation of civilian resilience. This resilience is a hallmark of democratic systems: democratic systems are responsive to the needs to citizens, they marshal resources in support of a common goal and a shared purpose, and they contribute to societal resilience.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the 9/21 exercise, Taiwan’s largest annual Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise. While visiting the teams assembled for the exercise, I heard about how well Taiwan’s first responders reacted to a real emergency – the earthquakes in late September. I learned that within an hour of the first earthquakes, the Central Emergency Operations Center was activated and manned in Xindian and that Taiwan’s civilian leadership remained engaged with the National Fire Agency continuously throughout the week. Within two hours of the largest magnitude earthquake on the Sunday afternoon, first responders began to support recovery efforts in Yuli and Taidong.
This world-class response to this most recent natural disaster brought into full focus the capabilities, expertise, and resolve Taiwan possesses. The United States is proud to partner with Taiwan as it responds to this challenge and prepares for others in the future.
Over the past several years, Taiwan and the United States have deepened our partnership in a wide variety of areas related to resilience including humanitarian aid and disaster relief, medical aid, cybersecurity, and supply chains.
We have also worked with likeminded partners to build regional and global resilience through the Global Cooperation and Training Framework. For instance, in March 2021 the United States and Taiwan, in concert with Japan, the United Kingdom, and other GCTF partners, launched a yearlong campaign entitled “Partners in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief: Awareness – Resilience – Action.” These efforts have deepened cooperation and raised public awareness about the role of personal resilience and civic readiness in confronting disasters, both natural and man-made.
Today you will learn medical and other skills that can help the community – your community – in times of crisis. Whether in training or in real-life, these skills bring communities closer together and make them stronger. They will in concrete ways foster what we call “resilience” – the ability to weather hardship and adversity – that is so critical to a society facing crises both natural and man-made.
When we look at how Taiwan has emerged from the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic over the past two years, we see again the reservoir of perseverance, resilience, and strength shining in its people. The whole world came to understand that spirit this past year watching Taiwan deal with the global threat of COVID-19, and that is why all of us can gather here today. Taiwan’s world-famous pandemic response was not just about official policy; it was also paired with a civic-minded population willing and able to pull together in times of need. We have seen these same traits when Taiwan has faced earthquakes, typhoons, and other major disasters.
The resilience you build in today’s workshop will not only help you prepare for the next tsunami or landslide, it will also contribute directly to Taiwan’s security. The skills and mental resilience that enable a society to remain standing in the wake of a natural disaster are the same traits that allow it to deter and resist future challenges.
The United States is committed to working with partners on disaster relief and response. Being prepared and having the right mindset are invaluable resources – when responding to a disaster, containing a public health crisis, or reacting to other threats. And everyone can play a role – from officials, to the military, to civil society, to you.
So I commend you all for signing up for this training workshop and spending your Friday with us. You are improving your personal and community resilience, and by extension, that of all Taiwan. Thank you for your service, and thanks again to the TWDMTDA team.
Thank you! I hope you all have a very successful training workshop!