Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Strategies Boosted

As the University of the West Indies (UWI) prepares to roll-out the Caribbean Disaster Risk Atlas, 45 professionals from 12 countries across the Caribbean comprising of insurers, physical planners, engineers, disaster co-ordinators, researchers, geologists and spatial data specialists from the private and public sector converged on the Jamaica Grande Conference Centre in Ocho Rios for a two-day comprehensive training and symposium.

Mr Jim Joseph of the St. Lucia Integrated National Geonode (SLING) demonstrates how his country has customised Geonode for management of spatial data.

Training formed part of the capacity building efforts to support the implementation of the Atlas and included the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and risk estimation in disaster risk reduction along with the presentation of technical papers from a two-year investigation on flood and seismic risks in Barbados, Grenada and Jamaica.

The Caribbean Disaster Risk Atlas, a state-of-the-art analytical mapping tool providing up-to-date and verified data for the analysis and management of natural hazards in the region is designed to run on the Geonode platform and further allows for the integration of various social media networks to facilitate involvement at all levels.

Participants from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Barbados, Turks and Caicos Islands, Colombia, Anguilla, Antigua as well as St. Kitts and Nevis along with their trainers took some time away from the workshop to share camera lens. In front row (l-r) are, Mr Ronald Jackson – Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management; Dr Barbara Carby – Director of the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre, UWI; Dr Arpita Mandal (5th l) – Lecturer at the UWI; Dr David Smith – Co-ordinator for the ISD and Mr Leslie Walling (r) – Fund Co-ordinator, Canada Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund in Barbados.

Conducted by specialists from within the Caribbean drawn from the UWI and private sector, the training exercise exposed participants to the theoretical and practical demonstrations on the installation, customisation and use of Geonode and MAEViz software.

“Geonode is an easy-to-use GIS data archiving and sharing tool while MAEViz is an earthquake loss estimation system that takes the probabilistic and deterministic earthquake hazard results recently found, and, amongst other analyses determines the loss the building stock would suffer”, explained Machel Higgins, Scientific Software Engineer at the Seismic Research Centre in Trinidad. “We are currently modifying MAEViz to be a regional infrastructure data capture, estimation and sharing platform which will rely on the data services provided by Geonode. In the future MAEViz will have the ability to add GIS-related vulnerability information which will reduce the need for expensive GIS software”, added Higgins.

Alvah Guishard, GIS and Database Specialist in the National Office of Disaster Services in Antigua has welcomed the training. According to him, the training was very beneficial and timely. “Given the uses of Geonde and that in Antigua there is a great need for a software that allows geo-spatial data and especially now that funds are very tight, this software could be very handy. When this application is utilised in Antigua my day-to-day functions will be greatly enhanced since I would no longer need to be calling agencies whenever I need data”, said Guishard.

Similar sentiments were expressed by another trainee from Dominica. “The two days have been enriching and very relevant not only to my office but also the disaster management as well as the land and survey offices. Geonode customisation is definitely needed for Dominica. My capacity to build data has been enhanced and I am looking forward to the sharing of data and definitely taking back the lessons learnt from the Hope River Watershed to inform practices on flood management”, opined Lyn Baron, GIS Technician in the Ministry of Environment.

Alvah Guishard, GIS and Database Specialist in the National Office of Disaster Services in Antigua has welcomed the training.

Funding for this activity was provided by the World Bank through its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery as part of a larger project for disaster vulnerability and risk assessment mapping for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean basin. The project was managed by the Institute For Sustainable Development (ISD) under the technical guidance and expertise of the Seismic Research Centre and the Mona Geoinformatix Institute.

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