Article

Preparing for the next disaster in the Caribbean

    Author:
  • By Frank Schott, Vice President of Global Programs
  • April 3, 2018
Preparing for the next disaster

Today, NetHope joined the Clinton Foundation in announcing NetHope’s commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery. The announcement was made at a launch event at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. It’s inspiring to join others who are committed to this work.

It’s been a little over six months since two category 5 storms, Irma and Maria, dealt a devastating blow to the Caribbean. The damage from those two hurricanes alone is estimated to be over $150 billion.

NetHope deployed its teams across the Caribbean to provide emergency telecommunication services, including the provision of connectivity to first responders and communities in over 80 locations across Puerto Rico, Dominica, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, and St. Martin. In the photo above, an early NetHope team is shown installing emergency connectivity in Utuado, a mountain community in Puerto Rico particularly hard-hit by Hurricane Maria.

NetHope also regularly provided accurate, timely data to first responders to help direct aid; helped restore services for local providers so they could reestablish communication to their customers; and provided Information as Aid services to affected communities in Puerto Rico. Information as Aid leverages social media and mobilizes a group of specially trained citizen reporters, who collect data on the relief landscape.

NetHope recently conducted a roll-up-your-sleeves learning workshop in San Juan with a cross-section of staff, NGOs, and tech, academic, and philanthropic partners, all of which are vital to our work. After analyzing our response, workshop participants concluded that while there are areas for improvement in the post-disaster response, better preparation would yield the greatest gains for emergency responders and the affected communities.

With hurricane season starting in June, there is a palpable urgency to be better prepared. This is compounded by the fact that hurricanes and tropical storms aren’t the only natural hazards in the Caribbean. The region is also threatened by floods, droughts, tsunamis, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic events.

If we move fast, we have an opportunity to fortify this region and prevent the future loss of life and destruction from hurricanes and other threats to the region.

To this end, NetHope and our NetHope partners are moving on five parallel fronts, including:

  • Growing the roster of skilled first responders and standby volunteers
  • Prepositioning emergency telecommunications equipment
  • Advancing our data-driven decision-making capabilities
  • Further developing our Information as Aid programming for affected communities
  • Extending relationships with emergency responders in the region

We are fortunate to partner with the Clinton Foundation in this effort. We also have committed implementing partners, who are all-in with their investment, providing such essentials as funding, personnel, volunteers, data expertise, and technology. These partners include: Cisco, Facebook, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation, Internews, Microsoft, Rocky Mountain Institute, and The Patterson Foundation.

Yet, to achieve our goals and better safeguard the Caribbean region, NetHope needs more partners. Consider joining the NetHope community. Together, we can provide hope for those who receive aid, and those who deliver it in the Caribbean.



This article first appeared on the NetHope.org Blog.

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