A grant under the Sustainable Communities in Central America and the Caribbean ECPA initiative, implemented by the Department of Sustainable Development (DSD)
of the Organization of American States (OAS)
, is allowing H.O.P.E. Nevis
to deploy a community engagement action plan against natural hazards in the lush Caribbean island of Nevis. Over the course of one year, this small NGO dedicated to support Nevis’ youth development imparted Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT) training workshops in five island Parishes. More than 130 Nevisians acquired disaster preparedness skills teaching them how to respond to natural hazards. These skills allow CERT teams to assist others in their Parish following a natural hazard event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. In addition, 78 people completed the Red Cross and First Aid Certification Examinations following the CERT training workshops. Team leaders were elected to head the various CERT Committees for each Parish. Work is ongoing with respect to the formulation of disaster evacuation plans for each Parish.
Natural hazard simulation exercises were conducted, allowing CERT teams to put into practice the knowledge and techniques learned in workshops to respond to natural and man-made disasters. The simulation exercises saw CERT teams responding to an 8.5 magnitude earthquake resulting in collapsed buildings, vehicular accidents, fires, and school evacuations. Evaluators and observers from local and regional agencies such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) were invited to assess the results of this exercise, and provide feedback on areas for improvement and continued training.
In addition to disaster training and preparedness, this ECPA initiative is supporting an aggressive public awareness campaign against sand mining. This practice causes beach erosion and has devastating consequences for marine ecosystems and wildlife in coastal areas. CERT Committees in five Parishes and the Nevis Island Administration were instrumental in raising consciousness about the importance of healthy and functioning marine ecosystems. “The existence of signs at the various beaches has been instrumental in significantly reducing the destructive practice of sand mining”, said Starret Greene of the OAS. “The effective maintenance of beaches was essential in minimizing beach erosion during the advent of storm surges”, he added.
Both Vincia Herbert, Chairman, of H.O.P.E. Nevis and Kyle Alex Weeks commented that “Building Community Resilience to Natural Hazards one Community at a Time aims at building community resilience to drought, flooding and other natural hazards, while seeking to implement sustainable preventative practices to safeguard the communities from hazards, while successfully equipping local persons with the knowledge and technical skills to prepare, respond to and minimize the fallout from natural and human induced hazards.”