Participants from all over the world are joining the Let's Net training course to become Electronic Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) and give their support in the field for emergencies that need telecommunication services to be set up.
LUXEMBOURG - "Ding-Dong"... "Good morning, its 6:30am; time to get up" a voice in German says over the PA system, followed by music from the radio. Another day at the Ecole Nationale de la Protection Civile (National School for Civil Protection) in Schimpach, Luxembourg has just started. We're here for the Let's Net training with a group of 11 participants who will become Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) Data Responders.
The Government of Luxembourg, WFP and Ericsson Response worked together to make this training happen. After this training participants will be able to deploy the ETC response solution - a solution for providing connectivity and ICT services to the humanitarian community in emergency situations. The solution involves different parts: connectivity and services through the emergency.lu terminals and satellite antennas; end-user management control through Ericsson Response WIDER solution; and the WFP standard data kit to bring all parts together and extend the services to multiple locations.
The Let's Net training has been done before, but this was the first time we included the emergency.lu solution. Instructors from SES and HITEC - Luxembourg companies which provide the equipment and services - came to teach participants about their respective systems. Because of the wide range of technologies covered, the course takes eight days and puts quite a lot of strain on the participants (and instructors...!)
We had a varied group of participants from different organizations: Luxembourg Civil Protection, Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), Ericsson Response and WFP. Also the backgrounds of the participants are very different: a student, project managers, technical specialists and ICT officers. Some have no experience with emergency response, while others are veterans with many emergencies under their belt. One thing they all have in common is they're motivated to go out in the field to assist in humanitarian emergency operations.
Christine Horton from Ericsson Response, for example, has never responded to a humanitarian emergency before. “My regular work involves financial project management, very different from emergency response. I studied for months to get the prerequisite knowledge for this training but didn't have much experience. Now I'm able to deploy the ETC response solution and I will be prepared when I'm sent to work in the field in the future". Another participant who might soon be using his newly acquired skills in the field is Steve Meyer from Luxembourg Civil Protection. "I'm on stand-by to be sent to Mali to assist in the emergency response there," he says. "Now I'm confident I will be able to deploy the system and contribute to the humanitarian efforts".
For me it was the first time as an instructor for Let's Net. It was a great experience to teach a group of motivated people like this. We just finished the first deployment of the ETC response solution in the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS) a month or two ago. The system is a great success there and already has more than 1400 registered users. The experiences from that deployment were valuable because the Let's Net training is not just technical; we also want to prepare participants for the realities in the field and the responsibilities they have supporting humanitarian efforts. The training consists of a combination of lectures, discussion and hands-on exercises. On the last day of the course participants will do a written exam and then simulate deployment of the ETC response solution on the premises of the school. This simulation gives them the opportunity to combine knowledge with skills learned. We raise the pressure a bit to give a more realistic feel to the whole exercise and it lets us assess more than just the technical skills. And it's of course also great fun for the instructors to act as users and coordinators.
Another opportunity to enhance the skills of the Data Responders will be OpEx Bravo. OpEx Bravo is an inter-agency exercise which will be held in Germany in September where hopefully some of the participants will get the chance to practice their skills again. Either way we had successful training and managed to further enhance our ability to respond to humanitarian crisis. Training is an important part of that; preparation is key!