National partners in Dominica as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines recently validated Early Warning Systems (EWS) survey results as continuation of a process to strengthen EWS through leveraging of best practices, tools and knowledge. The survey, which is structured around the four key elements of effective early warning systems, was a simple list of the main elements and actions that national governments or community organizations can refer to when developing or evaluating early warning systems, or simply checking that crucial procedures are in place.
Twenty and Twenty-Five national representatives in Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines respectively discussed the results of national surveys around the four EWS components with an aim to improve EWS for more effective Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Caribbean and, to move toward the realization of a more integrated system, through concrete actions addressing existing gaps.
Some of the gaps identified and validated include:
- Need to regularly undertake risk and vulnerability assessments
- Lack of dedicated budget for disaster preparedness
- Maintenance of monitoring hardware and software is addressed mostly when there is an issue and a need to utilize the same, and there is limited annual budget secured for routine maintenance
- There is no centralized 24-hour Multi Hazard Early Warning center for Dominica. Early warning systems exist independently in a select few organizations and most staff are trained and operate on a stand-by ‘on-call’ basis after regular work hours
- Corporation between the Private Sector and the established agencies is generally very high and supporting roles of the Private Sector are stipulated in national emergency plans. But otherwise, there are very few official agreements developed to utilize private sector resources (e.g television, amateur radios, social media) where appropriate
- Simulation exercising based on existing plans
Discussions also focused on the identification of possible strategies or solutions to assist in narrowing the gaps as identified as part of the validation process.
Miguel Lorenzo Hernández, Head of Health Studies of the Hazard, Vulnerability and Risk Group of the Environment Agency and Marbelis Rodríguez Azahares, Head of the Department of International Cooperation in Cuba will visit both countries to share their knowledge of Cuba’s EWS drawing on their successes in areas such as policy, standard operating procedures, drills and public education, communications flow, performance assessment and organization and structure, among others.
Validation of these gaps provides an agreed upon national EWS baseline for which strategies can be developed to strengthen resilience of national systems. As an immediate next step, EWS tools will be identified, adapted and converted into a solutions tool package, leading to a roadmap designed to address specified gaps to further strengthen EWS.
"Strengthening integrated early warning systems for a more effective reduction of disaster risk in the Caribbean through knowledge and tool transfer" is a Disaster Risk Reduction project of the DIPECHO Action Plan for the Caribbean, implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFRC), and funded by the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid of the European Union (ECHO).
This project, which takes place in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Cuba over an 18-month period, seeks to strengthen disaster preparedness and risk reduction through Integrated Early Warning Systems (EWS). Working in this important element for disaster risk reduction, is expected to enhance the prevention, mitigation and response capacities at both the institutional and community level, based on mutual learning and collaboration between countries and regional institutions working in disaster risk reduction across the Caribbean.