Bolstering the Region’s Readiness in Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems Policy and Practice

Regional and national stakeholders from across the CDEMA Participating States at the Model National Multi-Hazard Early Warning System Policy Validation Workshop, November 12, 2019, in Saint Lucia.

Castries, Saint Lucia, November 12th, 2019 (CDEMA): Over the last 15 years in the Caribbean, there have been observed improvements in early warning systems (EWS). However, one area requiring improvement is the governance framework including a national multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWS) policy. To this end, a draft model national multi-hazard early warning systems policy and adaptation guide was developed and is being validated at a workshop in Saint Lucia on November 12, 2019.

Specifically, the workshop aims to present and obtain feedback on the draft model national MHEWS policy and adaptation guide and to agree on the steps for enhancement and piloting the adaptation of the draft policy. The purpose of early warning systems policies is to establish authority for system administration, control, access, maintenance and use of disaster alert, notification and warning systems.

Ms Elizabeth Riley, Deputy Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) said during the opening session, “Today’s conversation is important because a life lost as a result of a hazard impact is one too many. About 2 decades ago, messaging from the English Speaking Caribbean was that mortality was not an appropriate disaster indicator for countries in the region. This is no longer the case. Hurricane Dorian’s impact in Grand Bahama and Abaco is the latest in a series of hazard impacts in the region where fatalities are a painful reality”.

Recent experiences with catastrophic hazards events, together with the availability of guidance for setting up EWS policy, including from Caribbean regional assessments and findings such as the multi-hazard early warning systems checklist among others, present an opportunity to craft a model national MEWHS policy that is evidence-based and anchored in the Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) approach. 

“This workshop is another demonstration of the region’s readiness to be on the frontline of change of policy and practice in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, and its interface with our development agenda”, said Mr Jeremy Collymore, Disaster Risk Management Specialist and Consultant.

Mr Collynore also highlights that “although there is no denying the significance of natural hazards in the definition of disaster risk, we need a shift in early warning systems where there is balance between the focus on the hazard and the social context of their experiences”.

Ms Maria Medard, Deputy Director, National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), Saint Lucia said, “Early warning dictates finding ways of reducing risks; and one of the best ways to achieve this is to warn people in advance so that they can take the appropriate action.

She also shared on Saint Lucia’s progress in advancing EWS, “Over the past few years Saint Lucia has worked towards advancing its early warning systems to improve early warning for more effective disaster risk reduction. Saint Lucia first installed a flood early warning system in the community of Corinth, and subsequently the communities of Canaries, Soufriere, Marchand and Dennery.”

The MHEWS policy validation workshop was supported through the “Strengthen integrated and cohesive preparedness capacity at a regional, national and community level in the Caribbean” project. The Project supports concrete actions for an effective early warning system, as well as aims to improve information management and operational capacity for an improved Caribbean Regional Response Mechanism. Working with Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Cuba at a national and community level, and with regional early warning and response actors at the Caribbean level, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFRC) are partnering with the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid of the European Union (ECHO) to reduce the risk of disasters in the region. 

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