Philippine Armed Forces, Australian Army and U.S. Navy medical professionals talk during a joint disaster management symposium, June 30. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Elizabeth Merriam)

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines - Pacific Partnership 2016 held a joint disaster symposium at Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH), June 30.

The symposium gave Pacific Partnership personnel attached to hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, participating non-government organizations, and local medical personnel the chance to have an open dialogue about disaster management relief, in a medical context.

“I think the symposium is a great program to get all of our medical providers together in one room. Everybody can see how we do things similarly and yet how we do things differently, to get to the same result,” said Lt. Michael Bowe-Rahming, environmental health officer aboard Mercy.

Participants spent the day learning about BRTTH’s emergency protocols implemented during disaster, and regular emergency response, nutrition care in a disaster situation and clean water.

“I think this is a great [opportunity] for us. We will meet and exchange new ideas about how we will prepare when disaster comes,” said Capt. Danty E. Avergonzado, Armed Forces Philippines Nurse Corps. “At the same time we can also engage updates on other [nations’ disaster responses] and how they prepared. It will be a great [opportunity] for us; how we lend our hands to each other in terms of disaster preparation.”

Because the Philippines is located in a region prone to volcanic activity, many speakers focused on topics relevant to the area including respiratory trauma cases after volcanic eruption, burn management and forensic dental.

Lt. Cmdr. Franklin Margaron, pediatric surgeon assigned to Mercy, covered the prevention of pediatric trauma.

“Pediatric trauma is the number one cause of morbidity and mortality, not just in the United States but worldwide for children,” said Margaron. “More children are killed every year by traumatic injury than any other disease process.”

Army veterinarian, Capt. Erin Hennessey, focused her presentation on the working dogs often utilized in the recovery efforts following a disaster. She provided some basic tips for first responders who may be called upon to provide first aid care to an animal.

“There are not necessarily veterinary assets in the front line teams, so it’s human first responders who end up taking care of these [working] dogs. There is a general effort going on to increase awareness of what [the dogs] do, what hazards they might face and conditions they might develop,” said Hennessey.

She added that a dog’s health on scene and after the recovery efforts could also be an indicator of potential hazards to human health and safety.

After each discussion questions were answered and participants broke into small groups to further explore areas of interest.

“One of the biggest things we should take away from this symposium is the collaborative effort that we have built,” said Lt. Richard Tan, site supervisor for the disaster symposium. “We have a joint effort of engaging and tackling issues that are set forth in any emergency disaster and in managing that collaborative effort.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and Pacific Partnership 2016 also co-hosted a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief workshop July 5-9, at the Disaster Coordination Center, allowing for further in-depth discussion about collaborative disaster response.