Empowering Caribbean Communities to Better Respond to Disasters

stakeholders meeting
URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE CAPACITY TRAINING CARRIED OUT IN CURACAO. PHOTO UNDP

The picturesque islands of the Caribbean are the dreams of millions who flock to this paradise yearly. However, these islands also face real threats of earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides, extreme flooding and other natural and manmade disasters which present the citical need for improved disaster management. Despite the beauty that the Caribbean offers, there is growing recognition that the islands are extremely vulnerable to a range of natural and manmade disasters. There is also increasing awareness that such disasters can be mitigated to ensure minimal damage.

William Vanterpool, Director of Agriculture, Minitry of Home Affairs in Anguilla recounts the horrific flooding of 1999. "Hurricane Lenny was very traumatic for the farmers and for the Department of Agriculture... the Department of Agriculture was completely covered under water - there was up to 15 feet of water".

Highlights

  • The Urban Search and Rescue Capacity Training was directly attributable to the rescue of two men - one in Aruba, and the other in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

In 2009, UNDP with the support of the European Commission, teamed up with the British and Dutch Overseas Territories of the Caribbean to reduce risk where it pertains to natural and manmade disasters. Recognizing that these islands are vulnerable to a range of disasters including earthquakes, floods, landslides, oil spills, tsunamis and hurricanes, UNDP's Regional Risk Reduction Intiative (R3i) aims to empower communities and individuals to reduce the impact of these hazards by enhancing their understanding of how disasters will effect communities, livelihood and development. There is a need to improve planning processes by having better data, information and communications systems. To reduce losses after impact, it is critical to deliver information rapidly to the population and response agencies about imminent threats through Early Warning Systems (EWS).

With the support of UNDP, through the R3i, alerting systems have been put in place in four (4) countries: St. Marteen, Montserrat, Aruba, and Anguilla, where the alerting system which was already in place was upgraded. The system includes forecasts, alerting systems, coordination of response and communication to the public. This means that the average citizen can be warned on time about approaching hazards. The mapping of vulnerable areas wil lhelp Town and Country Planning to identify which areas have certain risks, which measures can be taken to avoid these risks and so citizens can be protected.

"We've had the Anguillan Warning System since 2008, working with only one server and one radio station. The main challenge has been the provision of funding. With the support of UNDP through the R3i, we're going to be receiving funding to completely flesh out the system. [We will] purchase additional sirens [and] additional units to interrupt radio stations and television stations", says Damian Barker of the Anguillan Department of Disaster Management.

The driving force behind R3i, is to empower the Caribbean community so they can be more self-relient and resourceful. Effecient response by emergency services and the community can reduce the loss of lives and property after a disaster. Urban Search and Rescue Capacity is one of the important needs of the Overseas Territories that R3i, in partnership with the Caribbean Emergency Responders Training Academy has addressed. This training took place in four (4) countries: The Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands ,Aruba and Curacao. The training session lasted several weeks, and consisted of roughly 20 trainees per session. The main components of the Urban Search and Rescue Training were Medical First Responder, Incident Command System, Rope Rescue, Search Techniques, Stress Management in Disasters, Mass Casualty Management and Hazardous Materials Awareness.

The OCT's Regional Risk Reduction Initiative (R3i)