Sunday, February 20, 2011: 3:30 PM
143AB (Washington Convention Center )
For 24 years the U.S. Geological Survey and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance have supported a small team of scientists and the monitoring equipment required to respond to volcanic crises at short notice anywhere in the world. This Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) team was founded following the 1985 tragedy at Nevado del Ruiz, where 23,000 perished following an eruption-triggered lahar that swept through the town of Armero, Colombia. Through its first two decades, VDAP has deployed teams and equipment to assist host-country counterparts in responding to volcanic eruptions and unrest at numerous volcanoes in Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Western Pacific and Africa and the Middle East. Between crises, VDAP conducts capacity-building projects, including construction of volcano-monitoring infrastructure and education programs in monitoring, hazard assessment and eruption forecasting. In all cases, VDAP scientists work in the background, providing support to counterpart agencies. VDAP serves as a scientific and technical component of U.S. humanitarian and foreign aid to the developing world. All VDAP monitoring equipment is donated to counterpart agencies, and over the years, VDAP has helped build and sustain volcano observatories and monitoring programs in more than a dozen countries.
As volcano observatories, monitoring networks, and the science of volcanology have advanced, the role of VDAP has changed. In the early years, VDAP served mainly as a “mobile volcano observatory” to the world. More recently, our role has shifted to also include remote consultation during crises, enhancing and modernizing monitoring infrastructure, advancing capabilities in eruption forecasting through experience gained during eruption responses, sharing this experience through education and training programs, and working behind-the-scenes to promote and grow counterpart agencies. As capabilities of international partner observatories have grown, the traditional VDAP “mobile observatory” response is now reserved for situations in which local capabilities and resources are exceeded. Through these long-term international scientific collaborations with a common goal of saving lives and property, bi-lateral and multi-national partnerships are established and enduring friendships and multi-cultural understanding have resulted. Such international relationships constitute essential elements of science diplomacy.