The Caribbean region is renowned as a high-risk environment with a diverse set of hazards to which it is susceptible. The frequency of impacts from severe weather systems has forced countries to develop contingency arrangements within their respective jurisdictions to enhance survivability and to protect very fragile economic bases from this particular hazard. However over time as access and telecommunications has advanced, the region has become more exposed to potential technological and complex type hazards that have the ability to cause severe losses if they are not mitigated against.

It has been demonstrated in the region that there is a need to develop contingency search and rescue arrangements to deal with situations that can and have arisen from incidences of aircraft crashes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, large fires, oil spills and HAZMAT incidents. Given our economic realities and resource base limitations there is a need to articulate a clear policy and programme for planning for, mitigating against, responding to and recovering from situations that give rise to search and rescue events.

The CDERA integrated Search & Rescue (SAR) Programme is designed to provide a coordinated interagency mechanism to manage and administer both marine and land based SAR activities and to ensure effective use of all resources within the region.

The need for developing national and regional capacity in the area of Land-Base Search and Rescue (LSAR) has been demonstrated within the Participating States of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA). While this has been most apparent for the island of Montserrat (as demonstrated by increased seismic activity since 1995), other islands have been affected by seismic activity – Jamaica 1692 and 1907, and Antigua and Barbuda 1974. In addition, the vulnerability of CDERA Participating States to multi-hazards, - other natural as well as human induced hazards - which may require the use of USAR, makes the development of capacity in this area more critical.

Whilst emergency planning systems in CDERA Participating States have been elaborated for tropical cyclones, the preparedness for LSAR response has been generally weak or missing.

In view of this, the CDERA/CU has embarked on a comprehensive Search and Rescue Programme of which LSAR is a one key component. The process is being informed by collaboration and consultation with experts in the field in both Land-Based and Marine SAR. With this support, the Region will shortly be better positioned to prepare for SAR activities through training, skill enhancement and establishment of a response capability.

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