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Engineering 'crucial' to disaster response

The UK engineering sector has a ‘crucial’ role to play in responding to natural and man-made disasters, the government has said.

Addressing CEOs and senior directors of leading engineering firms and institutions including Mott MacDonald, Arup, MWH, AECOM, CH2M and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Rt. Hon Alan Duncan MP said: “Engineers and engineering companies are a crucial centre of instant disaster response; there are so many examples of where [engineering] skills can help.”

Support from the engineering community would assist the UK in making its disaster response effort “the very best in the world”, Mr Duncan added.

The minister was taking part in ground-breaking talks hosted by the Department for International Development (DFID) and facilitated by disaster relief charity RedR on 10 May to explore how the engineering sector and government can work together to improve response to humanitarian crises caused by floods, drought, earthquakes or conflict.

In a lively discussion, senior corporate executives and government officials identified a number of common goals and challenges, including the need for:

• Improved understanding of the ‘culture of modern humanitarianism’ amongst the engineering sector and awareness of how disaster response works in practice;

• Stronger technical partnerships between UK government, the engineering sector and NGOs, particularly in the planning phase of disaster response and recovery;

• Better awareness of the unique skills and competencies the engineering sector can bring to the various phases of disaster response – as well as recognition of the legal and financial limitations on private sector companies and their personnel;

• A move beyond the ‘corporate social responsibility’ agenda with greater awareness that, to promote a sustainable relief effort, companies need to make a profit, however small;

• Future discussions to be focussed around key thematic areas for cooperation.

• Engineering executives welcomed the opportunity to play a more active role in UK disaster response, a key recommendation of Lord Ashdown’s 2011 Humanitarian Emergency Response Review (HERR).