Strengthening Integrated Early Warning Systems for More Effective Disaster Risk Reduction in the Caribbean Through Knowledge and Tool Transfer

The greatest achievement of this Early Warning Systems (EWS) intervention thus far has been the adaptation of the Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems (MHEWS) Checklist previously developed and revised through the efforts of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The adaptation process should also be celebrated as inter-governmental, non-governmental and vulnerable group interests have been engaged. Improvements to the tool are reflected in five areas:


  1. the integration of gender considerations across the four elements of the Checklist,
  2. the addition of major social groups and other stakeholders among the key actors,
  3. the inclusion of general information on the population to be served by the MHEWS,
  4. the insertion of levels against which to objectively identify attainment/progress for each action, and
  5. the minimal revisions to the language of the Checklist for improved clarity.

The revision was led by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Other actors including DIPECHO partners in the Caribbean were also engaged in the revision process. The checklist will be applied in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This Project is funded through the DIPECHO Action Plan for the Caribbean (2017) by the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid of the European Union (ECHO).Ronald H. Jackson, Executive Director, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency

During my tenure with CDEMA and even reflecting on previous interventions, we have not seen a tool that has been geared towards benchmarking or providing standards for EWS and observing the tool applied in such a way as to determine the progress made by countries against those standards. Throughout the Caribbean, there have been initiatives that have sought to develop EWS at all levels. Previous interventions are therefore useful building blocks towards effective EWS in the countries. Flood EWS initiatives under CDEMA for example, have sought to develop national level action plans and a sustainability strategy for advancing EWS both at the national level and the regional level. With the exception for the checklist or standards, the Caribbean Disaster Management Project (CADM) introduced the framework for sustaining EWS advances beyond the life of the project taking into consideration the different variables and the dimensions.

The MHEWS Checklist therefore brings an added dimension to the previous interventions that cannot be overstated. It gives a clear path for advancing MHEWS at the local to regional scales. The potential for experience sharing and transfer of knowledge in the Caribbean will be rich. There are a number of countries that have been involved in the CADM Project that are beneficiaries of this one. They will have the opportunity to reflect on what they have been able to achieve, identify gaps and seek to build on the action plans developed. It is appreciated that some gaps may have persisted due to limited understanding of the standard in relation to each of the 4 pillars of a MHEWS. The Checklist provides clear details so that there can be targeted investments towards addressing the requirements for each EWS pillar so that EWS can be improved up to the last mile. The emphasis is therefore not only on communicating the warning but also in sustaining the efforts of the users, the community, who receive this information. It is anticipated that once countries are clear on the standards, MHEWS can become truly comprehensive and ‘people-centred’ at the national and more importantly at the community level.

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