WMO hosted a successful four-day virtual workshop on impact-based forecasting and risk scenario planning in the Caribbean in order to boost coordinated disaster management and response in a region of low-lying countries which are vulnerable to hazards such as hurricanes and coastal flooding.
This meeting formed part of the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Caribbean initiative - Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Services - a US$5.5 million regional project that seeks to strengthen and streamline capacity related to weather forecasting, hydrological services, multi-hazard impact-based forecasting and warnings and service delivery.
The meeting, held remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, came just ahead of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. It built on lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season, which was one of the most destructive and deadly on record in the Caribbean, and from the devastation wreaked in the Bahamas by top-level Category 5 Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
“The workshop showcased how meteorological services and disaster managers have collaborated and continue to collaborate to develop invaluable products and services for the benefit of our respective communities of practice and the general public in order that we move one step closer to a greater level of operational effectiveness, public safety and resilience,” said Kerry Hinds, Director of the Department of Emergency Management in Barbados. She said it introduced technical staff to the new concept of impact-based forecasting.
Key outcomes that are pivotal in improving disaster response in the region included:
- Identifying the linkages between impact-based forecasting and risk scenario planning, and the current operational landscape in the Caribbean.
- Identifying key actors, with a particular focus on the role of gender and the private sector.
The session was originally scheduled to take place during the WMO Hurricane Committee meeting in April, but this was cancelled because of the Coronavirus restrictions and replaced by a short virtual meeting. However, the fact that it took place remotely turned out to be beneficial because it allowed for greater participation.
"The workshop achieved a lot more than if we were all gathered in one place; allowing several of my staff members to participate. The experience opened a beautiful pandora’s box in which opportunities will be pursued to host other workshops online, utilizing the cost saving as investments for more user-friendly weather forecasts and risk scenario planning – the theme of the just completed, COVID-forced but successful online workshop,” said Dale Destin, Director, Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Services.
The virtual platform offered a unique opportunity to expand participation to include all Member States from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). In total, 94 participants from 20 countries took part across three key disciplines, the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, National Disaster Management Offices, and Gender Bureaus, as well as the private sector. The participation of the Gender Bureaus and the private sector allowed for a better understanding of the importance of their integration into the project. Support was also provided by Cuba, the RSMC/NHC in Miami, the Regional Forecast Support Facility in Martinique, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and the Weather Ready Nation initiative.
“Most commendable was the success of having such wide participation across the Region. Impact-based forecasting is one of the priorities of the WMO, so kudos to the team,” commented Evan Thompson, Director of the Meteorological Services Division, Meteorological Service of Jamaica and acting president of WMO Region Association IV.
Gender Affairs Coordinator from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, La Fleur Quammie also commented, ”The online series provided an excellent opportunity for regional participants to be sensitized about mainstreaming gender in climate change, and why gender considerations should be integrated into the IBF process in order to understand the risk of vulnerable groups, identify the impact of the disasters on these groups, and to forecast triggered action."
While COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, WMO and its partners plan to replicate this very successful meeting in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean Member States.
This meeting forms part of the CREWS Caribbean initiative that is being led by the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, supported by WMO and the United Nations office for Disaster Risk Reduction; and implemented at the regional level by the Caribbean Meteorological Organization, Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology, and Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.