Crisis Prevention and Recovery Before the Emergency

Crisis Prevention and Recovery Before the Emergency
Strengthening capacity and linkages among government and civil society is critical in crisis prevention and recovery.

Annually, Belize prepares for a hurricane season which brings with it, risk to human life and property. It is no wonder then that Crisis Prevention and Recovery planning and measures need to be in place before an emergency occurs.

Highlights

  • First Aid Training of 725 persons, mostly female, increases Belize’s ‘First Responders’ capacity
  • Inter-agency linkages in disaster risk reduction and crisis prevention better understood
  • Agriculture Resiliency understood and built as a Disaster Mitigation issue

In October 2009 an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and National Evacuation Desk Top Exercise was conducted in the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) Training Room, whereby thirty (30) persons were trained. Trainees included personnel from the Belize Defence Force (BDF), Belmopan and Belize City Councils, the Department of Transport, NEMO, and the Ministries of Health, Human Development and Housing. The exercise, covering the scope of works of the National Transport and Evacuation Committee and indicating the types of coordination needed between key committees such as Search and Rescue, Shelter and Relief Supplies and the Transport Committee, was presented to the National Operational Committee staff and chairperson, the Transport Commissioner.

"The exercise was very valuable, it was more focused than the larger scale exercise and more details were addressed” stated Sylvia Usher, Acting Chairperson of the National Relief and Supplies Management Committee. The Transport Department staff now has a better understanding of the scope of work for a large scale disaster evacuation of Belize City, including the challenges posed due to the vast number of individual bus owners and operators and thus the level of coordination that must be done for medium and large scale evacuation. It is recommended that the Committee set up a programme to address that issue consistently.

Also in October 2009, NEMO Coordinators from Corozal, Orange Walk, Belmopan and Cayo District attended the three-day ‘Disaster Mitigation – Agriculture Resiliency’ Workshop in Central Farm, Cayo District. The training emphasized how farmers can protect their livelihoods before, during and after disasters and how to report damages to engage speedy recovery. This was the first joint endeavour between NEMO and the Ministry of Agriculture as agreed to during the first Inter-Project Coordination meeting held in August 2009. The Coordinators and NEMO at the district level now have increased understanding of the agricultural sector disaster risk reduction (DRR) related issues. Activities of this nature must continue and NEMO District Coordinators are being tasked to involve more farmers in their DRR training, planning and exercise activities. Department of National Emergency Management (DNEM) will also work closer with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to involve NEMO in related DRR and livelihood events.

Another achievement is the First Aid training provided at the first NEMO Earthquake and Tsunami workshop held in March 2010, which benefitted 725 persons who were trained between the May 26th to December 31st - notably, most of the participants were female. They received skills which increase Belize’s ‘First Responders’ capacity.  For the first time a wide cross section of people was trained across the country within the NEMO system, and more Belizeans know what to do when faced with saving a life due to an incident.

In addition to capacity building of persons and organizations involved in disaster risk reduction and crisis prevention and recovery, through training, the United Nations Development Programme supported project, “Strengthening of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Capacity in Belize” has also contributed to institutional strengthening.  One example of this is the NEMO Belize Hurricane Contingency Plan, which has been completed and was utilized by NEMO in response to Hurricane Rina when San Pedro and Caye Caulker were evacuated from October 21 to 29, 2011.  The Plan will serve as the model for all communities’ plan; however limited staff and capacity at the District level could challenge the extraction from the national model required, to write a community version.   In order to lessen the load of writing and developing a plan for every single community the best approach to ensure sound response and recovery cohesion is to utilize a cluster system for the plans. Communities will be grouped in clusters given their locale, similarities, vulnerabilities and needs to create a Community Model Contingency Plan.

The project investment has solidified NEMO’s institutional approach in responding to disaster events by way of a plan. This effort has emboldened NEMO’s ethos, expanding from a top down process to work from the national to the community level, allowing for effective disaster preparedness, risk reduction and emergency response.