Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Regional bodies call for more collaboration to mitigate effects of disasters

Published:Sunday | August 9, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Flood waters block the entrance to Wallenford Coffee Company on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston in this September 2016 file photo.There is a call from regional bodies for more collaboration to mitigate the effects of disasters on businesses.

There is a call from regional bodies for more collaboration to mitigate the effects of disasters on businesses. 

The call was made by regional players in the information and communication technologies sector during a virtual disaster and risk management symposium hosted by the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC) last week. 

CARILEC is an association of  electric energy solutions providers and other stakeholders operating in the regional electricity sector, Central and South America.

The symposium was held under the theme: “Creating Connections, Strengthening Communities”.

The regional body CANTO, which represents operators, organisations, companies and persons in the regional ICT (telecommunications) sector, says the biggest challenges faced by businesses in the region are the health and safety of employees and customers during and after disaster, as well as the economic downturn in the aftermath.  

Chair of CANTO's Disaster Risk Management Committee, Heather Wallen-Bryan, said there is need for more mutual agreements and understandings among regional agencies. 

“We need to start looking at areas of vulnerabilities among electric and telecommunications companies. This is necessary in order to plan together and build resilience; pre-planning is of the essence,” she said.

She continued: “All telecommunications companies, at the turn of the century were required to put in place business continuity management plans and these have helped to prepare for impending risks,” she said in a release from telecommunications company, FLOW. 

Joanne Persad, programme manager for preparedness and response at the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency agreed, noting that adapting to the challenges posed by 2020 will be important for developing mitigation. 

 "There is also a need for revised multi-sectoral coordination and an enhanced logistics operation for the region, including adapting of agency protocols,” she added.   

Head of vector borne diseases at the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Dr. Laura-Lee Boodram said preparation is the only way to reduce the effects of disasters. 

“Maintaining the health and well-being of Caribbean people is of utmost importance and advanced planning is the only way to mitigate against the impact of disasters.”

Importance of water

The importance of water to the region within the context of the COVID-19 experience was also highlighted at the symposium. 

Ignatius Jean, executive director of Caribbean Water and Sewage Association said many plants in the region are not fully automated, and this, he said, puts pressure on entities to maintain water supplies during the pandemic.

“There is definitely need for a more coordinated and cohesive approach to build resilience in our systems,” he said.

In order to limit the negative effects and reduce recovery time during disasters, Persad said organisations also need to have an understanding of their vulnerabilities and strengths in order to determine the areas of their network most in need of repairs.

“I encourage every institution to have a business continuity plan, a recovery plan and contingency plan while utilising the experiences to learn from the lessons of the past,” she shared.

Wallen-Bryan agreed, reiterating the importance of pre-planning and the need to be aware of individual vulnerabilities in order to achieve multi-sectoral coordination at the regional level.

The organisations cited for greater collaboration include CARICOM agencies, global UN partners, non-government organisations, national disaster entities, as well as donors. 

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