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Nou nan sezon siklòn, Nap prepare n pou sizoka (It is the Hurricane Season: We are Preparing for What May Happen)

September 30, 2013

As part of the World Bank support to Haiti, a realistic simulation of disasters help the relevant actors to be better prepared in case disaster really strikes.

World Bank Group

  • National and international risk management actors are strengthening their coordination capacity in Haiti.
  • 300 persons participated in the 2013 national simulation exercise in two departments and four communes

Monday, August 5, 1:30 p.m., Port-au-Prince.  At the National Emergency Operations Center, faces are grim.  For the past few hours, the North and Artibonite Departments have been pounded by the heavy rains of a Category 1 hurricane that could strengthen.

The International Community Assistance Group, chaired by a representative from the Prime Minister’s office, discusses aid needs following a preliminary report on damages sustained. The World Bank signals its willingness to release a US$1 million contingency fund.  In addition, roughly 40 persons from various intervention sectors are in constant contact with the emergency operation centers in the affected departments.

Tuesday, August 6, 11 a.m. Limbé, North Department. 2,900 individuals are in temporary shelters. At the Civil Protection General Headquarters, the Mayor, who serves as the coordinator of rescue operations, confirms the number of disaster victims before responding to a journalist’s questions.  At the same time, a protest takes places over food, while a woman shouts that she cannot find her baby.

Simulation to Prepare for What May Happen

Were they real, these situations would be very serious.  Fortunately, these events were simulated during SIMEX 2013, the national simulation exercise, organized by the Civil Protection Department.  For the past 10 years, these exercises have facilitated assessment of the effectiveness of emergency plans.

This year, the exercise serves a functional purpose—it is aimed at checking coordination, communication, and procedures in two departments and four communes.

" “This simulation project will help us greatly in emergency situations. Our simulations were like real situations. The process is a dynamic and effective one. Limbé has already faced such situations.  "

Franzdy Dagobert

Mayor of Limbé

“This simulation project will help us greatly in emergency situations. Our simulations were like real situations. The process is a dynamic and effective one. Limbé has already faced such situations. This commune is at high risk for flooding, mudslides, and landslides. It was therefore not chosen by accident,” explains Franzdy Dagobert, the Mayor of Limbé, a commune of 110,000 residents.

Mass graves had to be dug in the past in the aftermath of a hurricane because of the high number of victims.

Guitane, who played the role of a victim states that “this training gives me hope because it lets me to know what to do (in the event of a disaster).” Guitane lives on a slope near a canal; floods often sweep through his home.

Complex Coordination

All actors involved in disaster management participated in the national simulation event, including the various ministries, international organizations, NGOs, and civil society—a total of roughly 300 persons. The exercise should result in improved preparedness, better understanding of mechanisms, and greater response capacity of the different actors.

Yolene Surena, coordinator of the Disaster Risk Management and Reconstruction Project, underscores how important preparation is for coordination. “If each person works in his own area and takes action, people can manage. However, things are different when everyone has to work together. Let’s say we have to evacuate a temporary shelter—we need the police, public transport, health services, etc. They have to work together.”

Constant improvement

A workshop soon will bring together all the parties involved to discuss the lessons learned and decide on measures to strengthen aid, minimize weaknesses, and assess material needs.

Other emergency management areas will soon be tested and improved in the context of the Disaster Risk Management and Reconstruction Project funded by the World Bank. The focus will be on the evacuation of schools and offshore search and rescue.

Technical and financial assistance for the organization of SIMEX 2013 was provided by the World Bank as part of the same project.