ALTER partners, along with local municipalities in Sisian and Kapan and the private sector, began small scale exercises simulating an earthquake and dam failure. The goal of the exercises was to test plans and procedures developed under the project and assess what changes might need to be made moving forward. More importantly, the exercises tested relationships and communication between the stakeholders in an earthquake and possible dam failure emergency. The activities began in Sisian on October 29th and continued in Kapan on October 20th. The exercises involved more than 100 people in addition to students who participated as evacuees.
During the Sisian exercise, members of the local municipality and Ministry of Emergency (MES) situations began with a situational assessment after the earthquake. In addition to simulating activities relating to the ALTER project, MES personnel also demonstrated their fire fighting and rescue capabilities as a part of their own ongoing training. The system of communication between Contour Global, owners of the Vorotan Cascade series of dams, and the local government. This communication included testing the system for alerting MES and local municipalities about a dam failure threatening Sisian and its surrounding communities.
Evacuation was also an important theme of the small scale exercises. A test evacuation of Sisian State College was performed to better understand the time involved in evacuating a large number of people from a flood risk area. The community heads of at risk communities in Sisian were also alerted using standard procedures and briefed on the theoretical scenario.
In Kapan, a similar scenario was tested using small scale exercises. Private sector partners from the Zangezur Copper-molybdenum Combine and Chaarat Kapan CJSC simulated briefings and connections to MES and local municipalities with relation to their reservoirs and tailing management facilities nearby. In this case, university students from Kapan Polytechnic simulated evacuations of their campus and the ability of rescuers to move people to safety in the case of such an emergency.
These efforts, along with the upcoming exercises in Akhtala community in northern Armenia, mark the culmination of two years of work by ALTER partners in coordination with their public and private sector partners. The results of these exercises will be analysed in order to better prepare Armenia for the risks associated with earthquakes and subsequent dam failure. In the coming weeks, videos and additional information about the exercises will be published.