Upper Mahaica (Guyana) residents in flood drill exercise

Georgetown, Guyana , May 19, 2012 (CDC) - Officials and volunteers from the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) together with the members of the Japanese International Co-operation Agency (JICA) last Saturday engaged residents of the Upper Mahaica communities of Little and Big Baiboo in testing its readiness for emergency flood operations.

According to a CDC release, the simulated exercise which commenced at approximately 15:00h involved the establishment and testing of a Community Emergency Operation Centre and the establishment and activation of two shelters at the health centre and the Baiboo Government School. Some 40 residents from the community were involved.


During the exercise, the residents together with CDC personnel were required to demonstrate requisite systematic actions to be taken in the event of a real time flood hazard which had the potential to wreak physical, material and economic havoc on the community. Residents were issued handheld VHF radios to enable communication and members of the Upper Mahaica Preparedness and Response Committee were issued with kits, including long boots, raincoats, hats and T-shirts.Residents in preparation prior to the simulation drill

Operating in various teams designed to activate health, shelter, medical, transportation, warning and relief, the residents successfully simulated all aspects of the Community Flood Preparedness and Response Plan. This included the activation of the early warning system for the communities by way of providing warning announcements, disseminating of necessary information to citizens, testing of evacuation routes utilising signage and hazard maps erected in the community, and the evacuation of cattle and residents from the “affected” areas to safe places where they would be out of danger. Additionally, the exercise allowed for the simulation of the provision of medical and relief assistance.

CDC’s Operations and Training Officer and Project Coordinator Major Kester Craig spearheaded the exercise. “This exercise is in keeping with CDC’s remit to provide training and ensure better than adequate response and disaster risk reduction in all communities across Guyana before, during and following any hazard impact or disaster occurrence,” he said. “It is part of a project which has been undertaken by the CDC with the assistance of the JICA which has provided experts in mapping and other aspects of flood disaster preparedness and response. The exercise builds from the work already completed by the JICA team with regard to mapping the community and the establishment of the early warning system.”

Major Craig indicated that, having been involved in the project from its inception, the members of the community have a clear understanding and appreciation of the benefits that it is designed to deliver for them. “From today’s activity, which has gone without a hiccup, it is clear that the residents have assimilated the information provided and are empowered to respond appropriately should their community be threatened by a flood hazard. While on this scale, we are working with these particular communities in Upper Mahaica, the CDC hopes to translate such successes across all flood prone communities in Guyana in the foreseeable future.

It is a time consuming and very costly exercise, but one which is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that our people are not burdened with losses and damage that they themselves can be trained to minimise. While the CDC is Guyana’s lead disaster preparedness and response agency, it requires partnership involving institutional state, private sector, NGO, and most importantly, the people of the communities at large,” he added.

Residents of the community thanked the CDC for embarking on the initiative and for involving them. They also said that the training and practical exposure being gained is very valuable, and can only serve to enhance their capacity for community development. They added that they hope that the project can be expanded and sustained over the long term. Regional representative Dr Paulette Bynoe congratulated the residents, CDC and the JICA team for a well-executed project, and expressed the hope that in the future, other communities in Guyana will be able to benefit from similar initiatives.Gillette of the JICA team explains the evacuation route prior to the simulation drill

Speaking to Saturday’s exercise, CDC Director General, Colonel (Retired) Chabilall Ramsarup reiterated that the JICA project, as being executed in the Upper Mahaica communities, is a pilot project through which systems, equipment, procedures and community capabilities are being tested. He observed that the simulated drill has shown that, when the proper training, equipment and support are provided, the outcomes from a successful partnership between institutions and communities can redound to the benefit of all.  Congratulating and thanking the members of the community for their willingness to be involved in the project from its inception, he noted that their involvement was critical since the success of such community-based projects must draw on the skills and experiences of the people whom they are meant to benefit.  He thanked the JICA team of experts and all the local stakeholder institutions and their personnel who are working with the CDC on the project, for working to bring about the initiative’s success.

The National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA); the University of Guyana (UG); the Lands and Surveys Commission; the Hydromet Department; the Public Works and Communication Ministry; the Guyana Forestry Commission; the Guyana Red Cross Society; and the CDC volunteers are involved in the project which is scheduled to conclude in June, 2012.

NOTE from CDEMA: The Community Flood Preparedness and Response initiatives in this report are part of a broader regional intervention  - the Caribbean Disaster Management (CADM) Project Phase II being implemented under the CARICOM/Japan Technical Cooperation Agreement through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The Project aims to mitigate disaster damages in CDEMA Participating States through enhancement of community resilience to the flood hazard and is being piloted in five States - Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana and Saint Lucia.  Floods have been identified as the most common and frequent event that impact the eighteen (18) Participating States of CDEMA.