Preparedness keeps Haitians safe as Tropical Storm Chantal weakens

Publié: 12 juillet 2013 14:46 CET

As Tropical Storm Chantal steadily approached the Caribbean this week, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), together with the Haitian Red Cross, was busy making preparations to respond as quickly as possible.

The people of Haiti are particularly vulnerable during storms and hurricanes as so much of the country has suffered deforestation and many Haitians live in makeshift shelters. With the danger and devastation wrought by Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy still fresh in their minds, the nation as a whole was braced for anything that Tropical Storm Chantal might bring.

The IFRC communications team sent out messages telling people how to keep safe and protect their homes during the storm. Practical information included telling people to stay away from rivers, ravines and the bottom of mountains, as landslides and flash flooding represent a significant risk in Haiti. People living in areas prone to flooding and landslides were also advised to find a safe area, and to keep food, water, medicines and important documents safe.

Text messages sent over the SMS Terra system were issued well ahead of Tropical Storm Chantal’s arrival, advising people to stay vigilant and to listen for any new developments. More messages were then sent out over the next 48 hours to provide updates on the storm’s progress. The Red Cross sound truck was also used to disseminate important infomation to communities and the Red Cross hotline number 733 also added a segment to tell people about the precautions to take.

The Red Cross radio show – or Radyo KwaWouj as it is known in Haiti –  broadcast its usual Wednesday radio show despite the storm’s imminent arrival. It was the perfect opportunity to provide the population with advice in real-time and assist the population in making preparations. Pericles Jean-Baptiste, head of communications for the Haitian Red Cross, took part in the radio show.

“The National Society, as well as its regional branches, is being mobilized and will use all of its response capacities in the event of a disaster in Haiti.”

A total of 500 Haitian Red Cross volunteers were mobilized, ready to travel to any affected areas. These preparedness measures not only prevent the loss of human life and property, they also reassure people who are well aware of the dangers such storms can bring.

Tropical Storm Chantal had been predicted to make landfall in Haiti on Wednesday 10 July, but on Wednesday it was downgraded to a tropical wave. For the people of Haiti, the danger was not over. Storm-force winds, heavy rainfall and storm surges looked like they would be Chantal’s parting shot to the whole island of Hispaniola. One death was recorded in the Dominican Republic as a firefighter attempted to clear a storm drain and was swept away by floodwater.