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Saint Kitts, Nevis Focus on Disaster Preparedness

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St. Kitts & Nevis battle drought, formulate recovery plans

Saint Kitts and Nevis are no strangers to disasters, having weathered multiple tropical storms and hurricanes over the last decade, including Hurricane Georges in 1998 which caused damages in excess of $1 billion EC.

Currently, like many other countries in the Caribbean, the nation is being impacted by drought conditions. Officials from various government agencies on St. Kitts and Nevis acknowledged that a focus on preparation is critical for every department and organization, so that when a disaster strikes, the islands are ready.

To be more prepared and to have everyone on the same page, the St. Kitts and Nevis National Disaster Mitigation Council, comprised of public, private, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), met on July 28 to share emergency preparedness plans. Discussions included identifying which plans needed updated, or those departments that needed to create a plan, and the meeting also shed light on the state of preparedness of the NGOs that are crucial in a disaster response and recovery effort.

The meeting was held at the National Emergency Management Agency and directed by the Honorable Shawn Richards, Deputy Prime Minister. Issues related to ensuring drains were clear so rainfall that caused the ghauts to overflow would pass without creating flooding, along with heavy equipment needs during a disaster response were discussed.

He also stressed that planning must include ensuring that individuals within each organization understood their roles and responsibilities in relation to the plan, and that procedures and processes were clearly defined and executable.

Focus on mitigation

The group also focused on mitigation needs as they related directly to current, poor construction practices and agreed on a need for both better monitoring and stricter compliance with rules and regulations already in place in order to ensure national resilience.

The Deputy Prime Minister also cautioned the different organizations and agencies about being zeroed in on just a single disaster type -- plans needed a broader focus than just hurricanes -- other disasters could impact the islands including earthquakes and fires and plans also needed to reflect these issues.

By ensuring an effective, executable plan is in place, with roles, responsibilities, processes and procedures in place and clearly defined and delineated, St. Kitts and Nevis are likely to reduce the impacts of a disaster and help prevent loss of life.

In working to improve their preparedness, and to keep the process moving forward, a follow-up meeting was set for August 25, 2016.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.