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Tuesday, April 11, 2006 

NODS assesses new methods of disaster preparedness
Tuesday April 11 2006

by Nikisha Smith

Antigua & Barbuda is reworking its way of preparing for disasters, particularly hurricanes, focussing more on risk assessment rather than preparation every year, an approach that is expected to save the nation money.

The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) is hosting a 3-day training workshop at the Heritage Hotel in order to disseminate the ideas on integrated development planning and risk reduction.

The workshop which started yesterday is geared toward enhancing the capacity of businesses, government institutions and civil society to compete and participate more effectively in the global economy, while increasing the region’s resilience to natural disasters.

Philmore Mullin, Deputy Director of the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), said that this new focus arose from their involvement in a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programme in 2000/2001 that dealt with mapping, hazard analysis, and critical facility assessment.

He said that out of that project came a mitigation policy and plan that they are hoping will guide them away from the mode of preparedness, which is primarily a yearly exercise and which costs money.

The proposed new scientific mode recommends that countries move away from that practice and implement disaster management in a comprehensive manner that will encompass a preparedness component, a response component, a recovery component and a risk reduction component.

Yesterday’s conference launched the risk reduction component, which demands that things change from the current system. It requires that NODS undertakes hazard vulnerability analyses, just like the Environment Division has to conduct environmental assessments.

This change is expected to affect how development is done in the future, as locations will not only be checked for their possible environmental effects, but also for the hazards they pose in the case of hurricanes or earthquakes.

“From the very location that we undertake development, the design of our construction, the engineering and architectural design, and the capability of our architects, they will all be under scrutiny,” said Mullin.

He said that this approach must be supported by other national authorities, such as the Development Control Authority (DCA), since land use planning is a critical area for NODS.
He said that if Antigua embraces this new approach they could almost guarantee that development, especially in the economic sector, will be able to withstand the test of time, and weather.

A number of representatives were invited from a variety of public sector agencies that deal with disaster management, from private sector agencies including the banking sector, farming communities, and non-governmental organisations such as the Red Cross.

The three-day course is being facilitated by Dr. Yolanda Alleyne and Dr. Vernese Inniss from the Caribbean Open Trade Support Programmew (COTS) funded by USAID.

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