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LETTER OF THE DAY - Disaster in Haiti - lessons for us

Published:Thursday | January 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

The catastrophe in Haiti provides valuable lessons for us. First and foremost to love our neighbours and to assist them in meaningful ways - ways that will not just help in the short term but in the long term prevent loss of life and damage to property in any future natural disaster.

Second, to help us to see how important it is to learn about the natural and man-made disasters that plague our region and put into place preventative measures.

This provides a golden opportunity for the HEART Trust as the national training agency to re-examine the curriculum in key skill areas such as building and furniture construction, electrical installation and maintenance and agricultural science.

Keeping us safe

As global warming through the use of fossil fuels and other detrimental practices such as deforestation increases, the focus must be on practices that work with the environment to help to keep us safe.

Such practices include:

The design and construction of houses to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes and floods - inclusive of attractive guttering to channel rainwater into catchment containers in the form of plastic, metal or concrete tanks since this not only controls and helps to prevent flooding but it also controls wastage and prevents critical water shortage necessitating frequent water lock-offs; the use of plentiful solar energy to cool houses, provide light and heat for cooking and other tasks; better use of wind energy to provide natural cooling for our houses and to provide electricity..

It would be great if HEART and the University of Technology could put together a team to assist Haiti to teach its people even while we learn and develop our own skills by the following:

Testing the soil on which any house/structure is to be rebuilt and, after determining soil type and strength, design houses or other buildings compatible with the environment - if the location is suitable for building - to withstand earthquakes of a minimum magnitude of 7.0 and hurricanes up to Category 5; each house would have its own water catchment and all soil would be covered with grass, shrubs and trees to prevent erosion and provide food - since food and water are critically short in Haiti.

Sturdy furniture

Design and construct sturdy furniture that provide adequate protection for heavy falling debris during an earthquake - the old mahogany furniture made by our foreparents are excellent examples of this: heavy dining tables, sideboards, tall four-poster beds, etc.

Design trenches, gutters, etc., to run off waste water into simple catchment areas to prevent flooding.

As we move to survive in a world where extreme temperatures are rapidly becoming the norm, we have to be proactive in our education and training. We have to be thinkers with foresight to take a problem-solving approach to training.

Let's move to science and architectural competitions that prevent and solve real problems; let's move to projects that feed the hungry, protect and beautify the country.

A wise king once said: Without vision, the people perish ...

I am, etc.,


c/o HEART Trust /NTA