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Friday, June 29, 2018

June 29th

Upcoming events 

II Meeting of Ministers and High-Level Cooperation Authorities "Strengthening capacity for development cooperation and partnerships: Building resilience to disasters" to take place from September 20-21, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the Organization of American States (OAS-SEDI), as technical secretariat for the ministerial process of cooperation in order to facilitate the logistical arrangements for the participation of ministers, high authorities, and special guests informs the Cooperation Authorities, through the Permanent Missions of the OAS Member States, that the second meeting of ministers and high-level cooperation authorities "Strengthening capacity for development cooperation and partnerships: Building resilience to disasters" will take place from September 20th to the 21st, 2018 in Washington D.C. 

What happened this week?

OAS and Chile Announce First Call for Applications for the Scholarships on International Disaster Response for CARICOM Countries 

The Organization of American States (OAS), in partnership with the Academy for International Disaster Preparedness of Florida International University (FIU), is offering a Disaster Field Operations Course on July 13 – 15, 2018. Citizens of CARICOM member states are encouraged to apply for scholarship consideration by June 27, 2018. The course is intended to provide participants with the knowledge and skills needed to engage in an international disaster response, in true-to-life field settings. Working professionals with backgrounds or work-related duties in emergency management and disaster response, including first responders in firefighting, law enforcement and EMS, emergency management employees, policymakers and program directors, urban planners, NGOs, public health workers and private sector professionals will be considered. The project is being implemented with funding support from the Government of Chile through its policy of international cooperation for development. The aim of this project is to strengthen the capabilities of CARICOM member states in Disaster Risk Management (DRM), Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Climate Resilience through certified courses, training programs and diplomas. 
The OAS recognizes that education is fundamental to the development of human capital, improvement in standards of living, and the promotion of social inclusion, social justice and prosperity. Accordingly, the OAS, through its Secretariat for Integral Development supports the efforts of OAS member states to expand access to inclusive and quality education...Details on scholarship  Read press release

Interesting Facts 

Lessons Learnt from 2017 Caribbean Hurricane Season 

french_welcomes_participants_to_lessons_learnt_session_1The outcomes of the review, “Lessons learnt on Early Warning Systems during the 2017 Caribbean Hurricane Season,” were presented during the Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, taken place in Colombia from 20-22 June 2018.  The session was named “Priority Investment Opportunities to strengthen Early Warning Systems in Small Island Developing States.” The World Meteorological Organization along with regional partners the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), and a gender expert led the review as part of the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative. 
The review found that forecasts were generally accurate and timely. However, the rapid change in intensity, especially for Hurricane Maria in Dominica, posed a real challenge. Warnings of secondary hazards, including flooding and coastal inundation were insufficient and should be improved to include impact-based forecasting. “Key findings to date that need to be addressed with some urgency include greater investment in national meteorological services to strengthen their physical and communications infrastructure, data collection networks, human and technical capacity as well as interactions with the public. While the anticipated CREWS investment strategy will address these areas of investment, it remains important that national authorities sustain the benefits of this investment,” said Mr Farrell. In terms of dissemination and communication of warnings, it was found that the risk assessments and response plans were not sufficiently connected. Risk knowledge, including the risk of river flooding and storm surge, was limited.  While a hurricane alert gives information about the intensity of wind, thresholds for secondary hazards still remain to be identified.  The review recommended that there should be follow-up into whether the message is actually received and understood... Read more       

Jamaica welcomes 'glorious opportunity' to host the next Regional Platform on Disaster Reduction in the Americas

Jamaica’s hosting of the next Americas disaster risk reduction conference is a “glorious opportunity” to raise awareness of the challenges facing the small island developing states of the Caribbean, said Desmond McKenzie, Minister of Local Government and Community Development. The Vl Regional Platform on Disaster Reduction in the Americas, held in Cartagena, Colombia, June 20-22, decided to convene the next forum in Jamaica. It is the first time that a regional platform will be held in the Caribbean, one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to extreme weather events and seismic activity. “It is a glorious opportunity, not just for Jamaica, but for the region as a whole to have a real platform for expression of our positions on disaster risk and all the associated issues,” the minister said. McKenzie said the forum will raise awareness locally, regionally and internationally of the Caribbean’s position. “To be honest many of these platforms do not afford the Caribbean the kind of exposure that is required. So, I think the hosting of a conference within the Caribbean will give greater appreciation to its needs,” he said... Read more       

Tourism industry in Americas, Caribbean prepares against tsunami risk 

Tsunamis may be rare in the Americas but they do happen as the region is highly seismic prone. A dozen earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have occurred in the Caribbean near Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Hispaniola in the past 500 years generating more than 75 tsunamis. “We do see a general increased tsunami awareness now as the tourism sector and governments are starting to feel more vulnerable to weather related disasters,” said Amanda Charles, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) at a session on how to reduce tsunami risk in the tourism sector held at the Sixth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cartagena, Colombia last Friday.
“The tourism sector is realizing how much they can lose when disasters happen. Some are also beginning to understand that resilience can be an additional competitive advantage as well,” added Charles. “Countries such as Anguilla and the four islands of British Virgin Islands are now Tsunami ready.  St. Kitts and Nevis have annual drills, inundation and tsunami evacuation maps and Puerto Rico has developed a tsunami safety card for tourists which is accessible and distributed in hotels. “Those are considerable progresses even if we can still see some resistance from countries too cautious to scare tourists and with too many assets located in areas vulnerable to tsunamis,” Charles said.... Read more       

Jamaica Charged to Adopt Gender-Sensitive Response to Climate Change  

Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Laurie Peters, has called on countries of the region to adopt more gender-sensitive measures in reducing vulnerability and building resilience against climate change. She said that this can be done by integrating gender issues into policies, programmes and activities, with specific focus on empowering women and girls.

“Canada wants to see a climate smart region… that promotes environment and climate action by advancing women’s leadership and including women and girls in the planning and decision-making process,” she said. Ms. Peters was addressing a workshop dubbed ‘Conversations on Gender. The Role of Gender in Building Climate Resilience in Jamaica’, at the Waterloo Road location of the Canadian High Commission in Kingston on Tuesday (June 26). She noted that it is Canada’s hope that this inclusive approach will support initiatives that will both mitigate and adapt to climate change and also create economic opportunities for women... Read more

Friday, June 22, 2018

June 22nd

Upcoming events 

II Meeting of Ministers and High-Level Cooperation Authorities "Strengthening capacity for development cooperation and partnerships: Building resilience to disasters" to take place from September 20-21, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the Organization of American States (OAS-SEDI), as technical secretariat for the ministerial process of cooperation in order to facilitate the logistical arrangements for the participation of ministers, high authorities, and special guests informs the Cooperation Authorities, through the Permanent Missions of the OAS Member States, that the second meeting of ministers and high-level cooperation authorities "Strengthening capacity for development cooperation and partnerships: Building resilience to disasters" will take place from September 20th to the 21st, 2018 in Washington D.C. 

What happened this week?

The Sixth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas : UNISDR head calls for more inclusion in DRR

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutoritold the opening of the three-day Vl Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas that the issue of inclusion will be a significant area of discussion at the regional platform. A key topic at the conference will be implementing a target of the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, calling for a substantial increase in the number of countries with national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction by the year 2020, the UNISDR chief said. Effective disaster risk management requires an “inclusive, all-of-society approach” that reflects the views of those who suffer most from such events and policy makers must heed the “voices of those who suffer disproportionately in such events. People living with disabilities, older persons, women, children and indigenous groups need to be consulted and engaged"...Read more   

Interesting Facts 

Five cities in the Americas to take part in the "Making cities sustainable and resilient: Implementing the Sendai framework for Disaster Risk reduction 2015-2030 at the local level" program

Representatives of five cities in the Americas met this week in Colombia at the Sixth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to discuss progress against the Sendai Framework, the global plan to reduce disaster losses by 2030. Santo Domingo Este in the Dominican Republic, Guayaquil in Ecuador, Guatemala City in Guatemala, San Juan de Lurigancho in Peru and Tegucigalpa in Honduras are among twenty cities that have been chosen globally to take part in a three-year program called Making cities sustainable and resilient: Implementing the Sendai framework for Disaster Risk reduction 2015-2030 at the local level, launched in 2016.  The initiative, launched by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) and the European Commission, supports local governments to better manage disaster risks.... Read more

Guatemala earthquake mapped: Where did the earthquake hit? Could there be more?  

Map of where the earthquake struckFollowing on from the devastating eruption that covered Guatemala in volcanic mud, ash and lava, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck on Sunday, June 17 according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). On June 17 at 10.32pm local time (3.32am BST) a magnitude 5.6 earthquake shook Guatemala, at a depths of 100 km according to the USGS.  This is just two weeks since Guatemala’s Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) erupted explosively, raining down ash and pyroclastic flow on residential areas. The epicenter of the earthquake was close to the Pacific Coast, less than 18.7 kilometers from Escuintla. Escuintla was an area that had incurred the most deaths and injuries following the eruption that began two weeks ago. This is 67 km southwest of Guatemala City, Guatemala’s capital. Following Sunday’s 5.6 magnitude quake, residents have been warned to stay prepared for aftershocks. As the volcano has recently erupted, the likelihood of earthquakes remains high with the volcano shifting and settling... Read more       

No, World Cup Fans Didn't Trigger an Earthquake. Here's Why.  


Mexico’s victory over Germany in an early World Cup game on Sunday caused quite the stir in Mexico City. At 11:35 am, when Hirving Lozano scored the game-winning goal at a match in Russia, seismometers in Mexico City picked up a spike in seismic activity. Mexico’s Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Research claims these tremors were caused by thousands of soccer fans jumping up and down in celebration, but some scientists are not so sure. “It was probably a person, or people, jumping up and down next to the [seismology] station,” says Xyoli Pérez Campos, who heads Servicio Sismológico Nacional (SSN), Mexico’s national seismological service. Campos says the vibrations picked up by the seismometers do not resemble an earthquake, man-made or otherwise. “People [jumping] can generate vibrations, but they look very different on the record than an earthquake,” says Campos. Seismometers have picked up sounds and vibrations from boisterous crowds before, but no synchronized celebration has ever been able to trigger a true seismic event, according to William Yeck, a geophysicist with the U.S Geological Survey... Read more       

Thursday, June 14, 2018

June 14th

Upcoming events 

Organization of American States (OAS)-Amazon Web Services (AWS) Webinar: Overview of the AWS Disaster Risk Management Program  

The Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the OAS in its on-going efforts to build the resilience of member states to disasters has been exploring opportunities for collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), particularly with a view to reducing disaster-related business interruptions and enhancing overall business continuity. In order to better prepare member states to avail themselves of the considerable expertise, know-how and experience of AWS' within the Americas in disaster risk management capabilities and the suite of products that is has developed, the OAS and AWS has jointly convened a webinar for June 18th, 2018 at 10:00 am (EST) in English and at 2:00 pm (EST) in Spanish. The webinar, targeted towards disaster risk management officials in the Caribbean, will be delivered by Maggie Carter and Abby Daniell of AWS Latin America, Canada and Caribbean Public Sector Team

The agenda is as follows:

1. Overview of AWS Disaster Risk Management program
  • Disaster Relief by Amazon and Amazon Business initiatives
2. Summary of AWS Projects in Latin America and Caribbean
  • St. Kitts Pilot Project
3. Presentation of AWS Products - Snowball Edge
4. AWS Volunteers - Net Hope collaboration
5. Procurement Considerations
6. Legal and Compliance Considerations
7. Questions and Answers

 Please click here to register 

What happened this week?

Guatemala: Volcán de Fuego Eruption Situation Report (as of 13 June 2018)  

The Volcán de Fuego  continues to register seismic activity, specifically avalanches and eruptions. The National Institute for Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) is constantly monitoring the volcano and has not yet ruled out the possibility of more pyroclastic flows of similar or greater severity than those recorded since the beginning of the emergency. The National Coordination for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) estimates that 966 homes have been affected. The families will be relocated once authorities determine a suitable location. First responders continue to find the deceased in their search and rescue efforts. Municipal authorities and the local community are deciding whether not to now designate the affected area as a cemetery ground. The Humanitarian Assistance and Aid Coordination Centre (CCAH) has followed up with the various offers of aid from foreign governments and the international community that have come in after calling for international aid. Countries such as Canada, Honduras, Mexico and the United States have provided aid. International search and rescue personnel have been aiding as well, working in the most affected areas
Per the Red Cross (as of 12 June, 2018), there are 1,714,373 people affected, 12,823 people evacuated, 110 people killed, 3,557 people sheltered, and 197 people missing...Read more   

Interesting Facts 

Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), World Bank partner to increase disaster resilience through improved procurement

Acting on lessons learned from a devastating 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the World Bank are partnering with governments of countries in the Region to harness public procurement to improve disaster preparedness and response. A recent World Bank study found that disasters impact gross domestic product in developing states, at a rate 20 times higher than in industrialized nations, causing greater disruption and severe consequences for vulnerable members of society.
“At the heart of the issue, is the management of the procurement and contracting process within the public sector,” Cheryl Dixon, Coordinator, Environmental Sustainability Unit, CDB told regional procurement and emergency response officials attending a Procurement in Emergency Situations workshop at the Bank on June 4 and 5.
With natural hazards increasing in frequency and intensity, Dixon stressed the importance of a greater understanding of why procurement under these conditions is unique, adding that too often, public procurement frameworks and systems do not give sufficient attention to procurement in the context of disasters... Read more

Combination of Climate Change and Inequality Increasingly Drives Risk  
floods 2010 pakistanA combination of climate change and rising levels of inequality is a key driver of risk in the world today, and the convergence of these two factors calls for heightened attention as they pose an existential threat to the survival of the poor, especially those living in climate risk zones. This was the key finding of a discussion involving UN experts at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn this week.
Poor people are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change and have fewer resources to adapt. In 2017, many countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, South Asia, and Africa were confronted with disastrous consequences of hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Thousands of people lost their lives, while millions were displaced and were left scrambling for basic necessities, including food and water. Owing to the gravity of the situation, the UN Human Rights Council last year adopted the UN Resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change, calling on member states and non-state actors from the private sector to address the human rights of climate-affected people... Read more       

Friday, June 8, 2018

June 8th

What happened this week?

Guatemala volcano eruption death toll: Why was Fuego eruption so deadly? 

Images from the volcano aftermath Volcan de Fuego (‘volcano of fire’ in Spanish) erupted on Sunday resulting in a devastating pyroclastic flow which obliterated everything in its path. So far, at least 109 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds are still missing. A second eruption on Tuesday sent rescue workers scrambling for cover, proving just how dangerous and unpredictable the situation still is. Officials have issued warnings of hazards still presented by falling ash as well as the risk of ash clouds to aviation. Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving currents of extremely hot gas and volcanic matter that pour down volcanic slopes at incredibly high speeds. They contain a mix of hot lava rocks ranging from pebbles to boulders, pumice, ash and volcanic gasses.  Pyroclastic flows can reach speeds of up to 430mph and temperatures of about 1,000 degrees Celsius. While a pyroclastic flow doesn’t leave much chance for survival as it is, there were a few additional factors at work here which put the people of Guatemala at risk. Katharine Cashman, Professor of Volcanology at the University of Bristol said: "We have been seeing over the past few years there were more frequent paroxysmal eruptions - or sudden outbursts. “Because there’d been these smaller paroxysms, the valleys had been filled with material.  So if the valleys are full, when the bigger flows come down they just immediately overflow and that’s what appears to have happened.”... Read more

June 5th: World Environment Day - Latin America and the Caribbean bids good-bye to plastic bags

World Environment Day logo: Beat Plastic PollutionOn May 30th, Chile became the first South American country to approve a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags, garnering congratulations from around the world for its efforts to beat plastic pollution ahead of World Environment Day on June 5th. The ban will come into force in one year’s time for major retailers and in two years’ time for smaller businesses. Several other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are using taxes, bans, and technological innovation to restrict the production and consumption of plastic bags and reduce their harmful impact on oceans and marine species. Antigua and Barbuda was the first country in the region to ban plastic bags in 2016. Soon after, Colombia passed a similar ban, and in 2017 applied a tax to large plastic bags, while ordering changes to their design with the aim of achieving greater resistance and reusability. Colombia’s neighbor, Panama, became at the beginning of 2018 the first country in Central America to ban polyethylene bags. The country is also drawing up a national plan to combat marine litter. Costa Rica adopted a national strategy to drastically reduce the use of disposable plastics by 2021, while in the Caribbean, Belize, Bahamas and Bermuda have passed or are drafting laws to eradicate single-use plastics. Ecuador aims to transform the remote Galápagos Islands into a plastics-free archipelago: no more plastic straws, bags or bottles will be sold or used after 21 August of this year. In Peru, several bills on the issue of plastic bags are debated in Congress. The most recent, prepared by the Government, seeks to reduce the consumption of this product by 35 per cent during the first year of implementation...Read more   

June 8th: World Ocean Day - World overwhelmingly commits to protecting the oceans and Clean Seas   

Image result for world ocean day 2018World Oceans Day is celebrated annually on June 8th, to raise global awareness of the state of the oceans and aquatic life, and advocate for individual and policy action for healthy seas. This year, in line with World Environment Day celebrated on June 5, the theme of World Oceans Day is centered around preventing plastic pollution – 8 million tonnes of which ends up in the world’s ocean’s every year. On this World Ocean Day, June 8th, nations are showing an unprecedented commitment to healthy, thriving oceans and seas, free from plastic pollution. With eight new countries having joined UN Environment’s Clean Seas Campaign in the past week, Clean Seas is now the largest global compact for combating marine litter, with commitments from 51 nations covering 62% of the world’s coastlines. Other countries who pledged this week to step up their protection of the ocean and their coastlines include Argentina, Cote d’Ivoire, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Guyana and Vanuatu...Read more   

June 8th: World Ocean Day - Latin American and Caribbean countries champion marine conservation

Image result for hammerhead sharksSeveral countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are protecting millions of square kilometers of seas in some of the world’s most biodiverse zones. Marine protected areas are one of the best tools to safeguard the health of our oceans and stop overfishing, pollution and acidification. They bring ecological benefits, but also great economic gains. Studies show, for example, how a a single hammerhead shark sighted in the Isla del Coco, in Costa Rica, generates up to $1.6 million during its life thanks through eco-tourism. There are more than 15,300 marine protected areas on the planet, covering an area of ​​26.3 million square kilometers, equivalent to 7.2 per cent of the total ocean surface, according to the Protected Planet report.
The so-called Aichi Target 11, set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, recommends the protection of at least 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2020. Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Colombia have already surpassed this target. Brazil was lagging behind, but last March made a major announcement. The country decided to protect almost 1 million square kilometers around the archipelagos of São Pedro and São Paulo, in the central Atlantic, and the submarine volcanic chain that connects the islands Trinidad and Martin Vaz, further south.  The designation increased the Brazilian marine protected areas from the current 1.5 per cent to 24.5 per cent...Read more   

Interesting Facts 

Guatemala volcano alert too late to save lives, officials admit 

Emergency personnel retrieve the body of a victim of the volcanic eruption in Guatemala -- so far, at least 99 people are known to have diedA communication breakdown between a disaster agency and volcanologists in Guatemala delayed evacuations as gas and ash clouds cascaded down the Fuego volcano last Sunday in its most violent eruption in four decades, authorities have admitted. Compounding the situation, rain and clouds hid signs of the toxic shower of debris, known as a pyroclastic flow, hurtling down the mountainside, hindering visual observation. While the poor visibility delayed villagers’ own reactions to the impending danger, 27 miles (43 km) away in Guatemala City, disaster authorities failed to understand the magnitude of the eruption, meaning the alert level leading to mandatory evacuations was not raised quickly enough, the heads of the responsible government agencies admitted on Wednesday. That meant people were left in their homes for hours after the dangerous flows began and has led to opposition calls for criminal charges and resignations. Guatemala’s public prosecutor said on Thursday that it would open an investigation into whether protocols were followed to inform proper decision-making in the handling of the disaster. In a tense meeting at Guatemala’s Congress on Wednesday, the head of the country’s volcanology institute accused his counterpart at disaster agency CONRED of failing to heed bulletins warning that Fuego was dangerously erupting. CONRED chief Sergio Cabanas accepted the evacuation order was late, but blamed the volcanologists for not being explicit enough that the situation was dangerous... Read more
International interest in Jamaica's crisis management center 

Development of a Global Resilience and Crisis Management Center in Jamaica to deal with climate-related issues has been attracting attention from international financial and academic interests, says Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett. First announced during the UNWTO Global Conference on Sustainable Tourism in St James in November 2017, the center, which is the first of its kind, will be tasked with creating, producing and generating toolkits, guidelines and policies to handle the recovery process following a disaster. Bartlett noted that academic institutions on “every continent” are also showing interest in the center. They include Queensland University in Australia; Hong Kong Polytechnic in Hong Kong; Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom; and universities in the United States such as George Washington and Harvard. “We know already that the tourism leadership — World Travel and Tourism Council, Pacific Area Tourism Authority, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Caribbean Tourism Organization, and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association — have all already committed and support this resilience institution,” he pointed out... Read more    

Friday, June 1, 2018

June 1st

Interesting Facts

Study estimates a prolonged increase in death rate in Puerto Rico in months following Hurricane Maria 

Puerto-Rico-Hurricane-MariaAs with any major natural disaster, assessing the loss of life caused by Hurricane Maria was difficult and contentious. For disaster-related deaths to be confirmed in Puerto Rico, bodies must be transported to San Juan or a medical examiner must travel to the region to verify the death. This makes it difficult to log deaths that were caused by delays in treatment or chronic conditions that worsened in the aftermath of the storm. In December 2017, media reports suggested that the official death toll was significantly underestimated. To produce an independent estimate of lives lost as a result of the storm, the researchers surveyed 3,299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico. Results from the survey showed that there were an estimated 14.3 deaths per 1,000 people between September 20 and December 31, 2017. By comparing this post-hurricane mortality rate with the same time period in 2016, the researchers estimated that there were 4,645 additional deaths in the three-month period following Hurricane Maria.
In addition to a significantly higher death toll, the study showed that the average household went approximately 41 days without cell phone service, 68 days without water, and 84 days without electricity following the storm. More than 30% of surveyed households reported interruptions to medical care, with trouble accessing medications and powering respiratory equipment being the most frequently cited challenges. Support for the study came from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Section of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.... Read more

Grenada PM says frequent natural disasters new normal for the region 

The board of governors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) began its 48th annual meeting on Wednesday, with Grenada's Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell warning that natural disasters and hazards associated or linked to climate change is creating a new normal in the region that will require a shift in developmental planning. He said that at the macro level, the region must accelerate its transition to green and blue economies, and in so doing, synchronize economic development with environmental sustainability. “Operationally, we must institutionalize climate-risk screening of all infrastructure projects and programs, of both the public and private sectors. In tandem, we also need to enforce proper building standards that support climate-resilient infrastructure,” he said, while explaining that it is crucially important that the region invest in climate-smart education to entrench a culture of respect for, and preservation of the planet earth... Read more

Building Better Power Grids  

Earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, ice storms, solar storms, brush fires, cyber attacks—these are just some of the events that can disrupt or incapacitate an electric grid. But for many countries in the region, it is the threat of hurricanes that looms the largest, especially with the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1 and last year’s brutal storms still fresh in people’s memories. The challenge is how to make the region’s power grids more resilient, so that they can withstand or recover from increasingly severe storms. According to a consensus report called “Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation’s Electricity System,” issued last year by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, it is impossible to eliminate power outages 100 percent, no matter how much money or effort a country invests in its electric grid. To increase the resilience of the grid,” the report stated, “the nation must not only work to prevent and minimize the size of outages, it must also develop strategies to cope with outages when they happen, recover rapidly afterward, and incorporate lessons learned into future planning and response efforts.” Dr. Gary Jackson, an independent energy consultant in the Caribbean, framed the issue of resilience this way: “It’s more than just the wires that connect the poles. It’s building a resilient framework so that countries have the ability to recover in the shortest possible time.”... Read more

For a Resilient Power Grid, Think “Micro”

In most places, on most days, the ability to turn on a light relies on a large centralized power plant, a network of high-voltage transmission lines, and a local distribution system. Most people don’t even think about the electric grid that powers their everyday lives until suddenly it’s not there. Of course, that’s what happened in Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands after a series of devastating hurricanes last year. The system failures are shining a light on new solutions for the energy grid. Part of the answer may lie in microgrids. Unlike an emergency gasoline generator that sits idle most of the time, a solar-powered microgrid is typically connected to the main energy grid, providing supplemental power generation on a regular basis. But if need be, it can be decoupled from the electric power system and run on its own. In other words, even if the main grid is down, microgrids can continue providing power to critical areas. Christopher Burgess, the project director for the Islands Energy Program at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), believes that more countries will take a more “modular” approach to energy and incorporate microgrids into their power systems in the long term. Not only is this type of approach more resilient, he said; it’s also more cost-effective than a huge transmission and distribution system... Read more
Assessing the Real Cost of Disasters: The Need for Better Evidence

image of Assessing the Real Cost of DisastersDisasters disrupt socioeconomic activities and cause substantial damage. Yet, their full economic impact remains largely unknown, especially the cost of smaller disasters and indirect impacts such as those due to business disruptions. Similarly, little information exists on the total amount of public resources that countries devote to disaster risk management. Reliable, comprehensive and comparable data on the economic impact of disasters as well as on public spending on disaster management and risk prevention are essential for developing effective disaster risk management policies. This report provides an overview of countries' efforts to improve the quality and quantity of information on the costs of disasters.    ... Read more   Download the report (subscription to OECD iLibrary needed)