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Salutations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, first, allow me to bring greetings on behalf of Mr. Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of CDEMA to this the Opening Ceremony of the Regional Code of Practice for the Construction of Houses Course here at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic. I wish to extend thanks to the Principal, Mr. Hector Belle, for inviting CDEMA to be a part of today’s opening.

The compelling need to reduce the risk posed to the CDEMA Participating States to hazards, both natural and anthropogenic, is not in question. The Caribbean Development Bank in its 2012 Annual Report estimates that since 1988, major natural hazards have caused US $18 Billion in direct damage in 17 of the Borrowing Member Countries including Haiti.

If we disaggregate these figures to examine the impacts at the sectoral level, the vulnerability of our housing stock becomes clearer. A UN/ECLAC country assessment showed that between 1990-2008 most of the countries reviewed experienced damage to housing and human settlements ranging between 35% to 99% of the total national damage costs incurred as a result of natural disasters. Hurricane Ivan resulted in over US $500 million in damage to the housing sector in Grenada and US $180 million in Jamaica and in Guyana the floods of 2005 caused an estimated US $275 million in damage to housing. We are also well aware of the impact the Haiti Earthquake of 2010. Housing accounted for more than 40% of total damage and was estimated at US $739 million.

Here in Barbados, we would also recall that Tropical Storm Lily, damaged an estimated 400 houses, Hurricane Ivan completely destroyed more than 176 and Tropical Storm Tomas in 2010 damaged approximately 1,200 homes. According to the National Hurricane Center’s Report on Hurricane Tomas, “island-wide damage was estimated to be near 8.5 million U.S. dollars.” These examples clearly illustrate the vulnerability of our homes and the economic damage associated with hazards.

It is therefore imperative that we address as a country and as a region where we build and how we build. This is of course influenced by a myriad of factors that are linked to risk and development planning. However, there are fundamental issues pertaining to housing design and construction in the region which if addressed could significantly increase the resilience of our housing stock and reduce the economic fallout from hazard impacts. The reality is that resilience can be incorporated most economically and effectively during construction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is for this reason that the CDEMA Coordinating Unit has made a commitment to partnering with the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) and similar institutions across the region to promote disaster risk reduction action and strategies. This is central to our regional Strategy for Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM). CDM treats all hazards, addresses all aspects of the disaster management cycle and promotes a culture of safety through an all people approach.

We believe that if the construction community recognizes practicing safer building techniques as a significant part of their contribution to nation building and sustained economic growth that this can go a long way in helping the region achieve sustainable development.

There is the need for more education and training of the designers and builders in the well-established techniques that are available for eliminating or reducing property losses due to hurricanes and earthquakes. At the heart of this is the critical need for the legislation of national building standards where these do not exist. In the absence of this, we recognize that there must also be a considerable degree of self-regulation among professionals to ensure that design and construction are in compliance with the codes and standards. However, we can go even further by mandating good standards and the continuing education of engineers and architects on how to design against the natural hazards prevalent in the Caribbean.

Applying more widespread knowledge about safe construction would significantly reduce the level of damage and destruction, loss of life and injury. The inclusion of proper hurricane straps, for example, during construction is cheaper than an entire roof after 75 miles per hour winds; the construction of a retaining wall and drains is cheaper than having to replace a house after heavy rainfall and landslides. And so safer building codes of practice must become a critical tool in the way we do business.

So critical we see this measure that CDEMA, as part of its Comprehensive Disaster Management mandate, developed a curriculum and course manuals for training in safer building techniques. The Course was first piloted in four (4) countries with the support of the Government of Canada and regional construction experts. To date, it has been delivered in a total of seven (7) of our eighteen (18) Participating States. And today with the support provided by AusAID, UKAID and DFATD (formerly CIDA), CDEMA is pleased to collaborate with the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic to deliver the Safer Building training to an 8th Participating State, Barbados.

The SJPP must be commended in stepping forward to offer the course. However, it is important to recognize that the SJPP has to be supported in making this training available to this target audience on a sustained basis. I challenge governments, financing agencies, and the insurance industry to step forward and play their part. We must commit to ensuring all our builders are routinely provided access to this information and training. In the Virgin Islands, the successful completion of this course is a requirement for securing a contractor’s license. Models such as this are worthy of emulation and I challenge the Principal to engage the requisite local authorities to explore this.

The next critical step would be for regional technical vocational institutions of the region to recognize and endorse this certification in safer building, so that the training here at SJPP is accepted in any other CARICOM member state.

I wish to again thank our development partners AusAID, UKAID and DFATD (formerly CIDA) for making this possible. I congratulate the Principal and his team for the initiative demonstrated in bringing this course to the SJPP and to the participants, I encourage you to make the most of this opportunity. It is my desire that you would come away with substantial benefits including making you more marketable across the Caribbean. This code of practice along with solid knowledge base of building design and construction will better position you in years to come.

I wish you the participants every success in undertaking the course and I encourage you to spread the word among your peers and colleagues so that its delivery becomes a permanent feature of the offerings of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.

I thank you.

 

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