The Future of Disaster Management in the Caribbean

Published: 16 December 2015 23:47 CET

Nassau, 4 December 2015

“With resilience, our goal is for communities to no longer rely exclusively on organizations to help them.”

With these words,  Carlyne McKenzie, Resilience Project Coordinator for the Bahamas Red Cross, explained the purpose of the 9th Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management, hosted by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) jointly with Bahamas’ National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) between the 30th of November and the 4th of December of 2015, in Bahamas.

This conference gathered participants from several organizations and agencies, both national and regional, for five days of presentations, discussions and exchanges regarding the state of disaster management and community resilience in the Caribbean .

Delegates from organizations such as EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the University of West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CiMH), the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross, the Grenada Red Cross, the Suriname Red Cross, the Bahamas Red Cross, the American Red Cross, the Canadian Red Cross and The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), among others, convened in plenary sessions and work groups to address issues such as climate change, sustainable development, monitoring and evaluation practices, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), strengthening preparedness and response, communications technologies,  knowledge management and community resilience.

“We gained knowledge with our participation in this conference, it feels really good.  We want to broaden our horizons when it comes to disaster preparedness in ways that we can modify with what we’re doing here in the Bahamas.  To expand our experience with the experience of other countries, of other organizations, it gives us added insight into how to be better prepared” stated Daryll Armbrister. Social Media Officer for the Bahamas Red Cross.

One event that generated a considerable amount of activity among the conference delegates was the Knowledge Marketplace, a new feature to the CDM Conference where current disaster risk management initiatives and tools were “sold” to delegates through quick five minute presentations.  The delegates were given paper money, and would then express their interest in the tool by “buying” it, with the three most bought tools receiving awards later in the day.

IFRC/CDEMA, with the support of the Suriname Red Cross, presented a Strategic Targeting Methodology (STM), a tool designed for organizations to improve their process in selecting communities for their programs and projects through carefully designed criteria that reduce external influences and focus on the communities by their needs and vulnerabilities.  The STM was the most “bought” tool of the conference, winning the CDM Conference prize.

The second most bought tool belonged to the American Red Cross, in support of the Bahamas Red Cross through their Resilience in The Americas (RITA) program, with their multi-hazard smartphone app, which features information on natural hazards, basic first aid procedures, emergency messaging including location, as well as emergency lights and sound.  You can find more information on this app by visiting:

Another session where the Red Cross movement was well represented was the Youth Conference, where a panel comprised of a 16-18 year old representative from each CDEMA participating state discussed CDM in relation to Caribbean youth.  The representative from Dominica, Phael Lander, is a youth volunteer for the Red Cross of Dominica, who witnessed the value of Psychosocial Support (PSP) in disaster recovery when his home country was gravely affected by Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015.

“The youth of the Caribbean need education, training and resources.  If these three things are provided to us, I foresee the world to be a much safer place.”

Lander, along with his fellow youth panellists, engaged in lively exchanges on community action, youth involvement in risk management, the possibility of including comprehensive disaster management in high school curriculum throughout the Caribbean, careers in Disaster Risk Management and the use of multimedia to engage younger generations in preparedness and risk management.