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(PRESS RELEASE VIA SNO) – Disaster Risk Management Specialists from the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/ OFDA) are partnering with National Disaster Coordinators in the Caribbean to ensure that systems and personnel are in place to handle any eventualities that arise during the current Hurricane Season.
As part of the United States Government’s Risk Management Training and Technical Assistance Program for Latin America and the Caribbean, Hurricane Preparedness Surge Capacity meetings are hosted across the region. Surge meetings were recently held in St. Lucia on June 15, and St. Kitts and Nevis on June 13. Additionally, a follow-up partners meeting in St. Kitts hosted approximately 30 Disaster Management practitioners that examined their roles and responsibilities in disaster preparedness and response.
According to Disaster Risk Management Specialist (DRMS) and Consultant with USAID/OFDA, Ann Jean Baptiste, the purpose of the annual Surge Capacity Meetings is for stakeholders to review the duties and protocols guiding the work of surge team members who serve on a voluntary basis. She explained that under the direction of USAID/OFDA’s Regional Advisor, they are usually placed on standby once a storm system has the possibility of reaching landfall. “If the country is impacted then we activate the surge. They report what is happening on the ground in their areas. The surge team normally stands down after the all-clear is given, and depending on the gravity or impact, may be required to work a bit longer.”
“As Disaster Risk Management Specialist for Bahamas, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia and as organizer/supervisor of the surge, I call meetings at the onset of the Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season to ensure new Surge members gain an understanding of their expected roles and responsibilities when activated,” explained the USAID/OFDA official. She also noted that the forums provide an opportunity for Surge members from previous hurricane seasons to share experiences and lessons learned.
Partners Meetings are initiated by National Emergency Management Associations (NEMA) in the respective countries, and Ms. Jean Baptiste stressed that the frequency depended on the priorities of individual countries. Public, private, and NGO representatives participated in the St. Kitts meeting on June 15, 2018, which reviewed existing protocols to identify gaps and recommend improvements, and also discussed the role of NEMA, management of shelters, post-disaster initial damage assessments, management of Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) and school safety.
USAID is prepared to respond to the 2018 hurricane season in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basin with an experienced team of disaster management professionals; pre-positioned emergency relief commodities and communications equipment; and agreements with partners to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.