Haiti Red Cross Society prepares for the hurricane season

Publicado: 4 junio 2014 6:12 CET

By Lorraine Taggart, IFRC

The beginning of June is the official beginning of Atlantic hurricane season. Haiti’s geographical location makes it extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and especially hurricanes. History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparedness are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. Therefore, it is essential that hurricane preparedness take place in advance to minimize any damage that could be caused by potential storms.  

The Haitian Red Cross, supported by its partners of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in Haiti, and financed by the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), work all year round  on risk reduction and disaster preparedness activities while sensitizing the Haitian population about measures to be taken in order to stay safe during the hurricane season.  

The Disaster Management Unit of the Haitian Red Cross, through its network of local committees, has been coordinating community-based disaster preparedness activities across the country. Under the banner of its “Kouri di Vwazen” (run and tell your neighbour) programme, which aims to sensitize the public on disaster prevention, Haitian Red Cross assists communities in identifying the risks specific to their zone and designating members of the community who could mobilise their neighbours and intervene in the event of an emergency. Currently, there are about 500 volunteers who are permanently on standby, ready to respond in the event of a disaster. 

In Nippes, in the south-east region of the country Haitian Red Cross volunteers supported by the German Red Cross have been conducting awareness sessions in schools to ensure that children and teachers are aware of possible threats in their community and how to respond accordingly. The schools have also actively participated in putting in place contingency plans for evacuation of students and teachers in the event of a disaster. In Bas-Artibonite, the French Red Cross has been supporting the creation of community intervention teams with members who have been amply trained to respond immediately in the event of a disaster. In Léogâne, the Spanish Red Cross has been providing disaster response equipment to communities and training in the use of specialised search and rescue equipment. 

“The Haitian Red Cross, as well as its regional branches, is being mobilized and will use all of its response capacities in the event of a hurricane. Volunteers are also receiving additional training to ensure a proper and effective response, ” states Marie-Chantal Pitaud, Disaster Risk Management Coordinator of the Haitian Red Cross.

The Disaster Management Directorate (DMD) of the Haitian Red Cross is also making contingency plans in anticipation of the upcoming hurricane season. In this regard, fifteen points of pre-positioned stock are already in place across the ten departments of the country.  The DMD is in the process of re-activating the once existing communication network via the Digicel mobile network to ensure communication between volunteers and headquarters as well establish satellite phones so that communication is accessible around the clock.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the West, Nippes, South and Grande Anse provinces provoking considerable losses: 54 persons lost their lives, 20 people were reported missing and 21 persons were injured. Moreover, 18,000 families were affected with  6,790 people  having to seek shelter in 66 emergency shelters.  The preparations being made for the 2014 hurricane season are meant to ensure that these figures are not repeated.