April 3, 2019
Last week Rescue Global participated in the Caribbean Security Conference 2019 in Barbados. The theme of the conference was focused on promoting regional cooperation and countering transnational threats.
RG Deputy CEO, Hannah Pathak, presented on multi-agency working in disasters and how effective collaboration can and should be extended beyond response into disaster preparedness activities as well as recovery in the aftermath of disasters. Her presentation drew on our experiences in the Caribbean in 2017 when we responded to the formidable Hurricanes Irma and Maria, during which we ran a two month operation. During this our Pathfinder teams carried out needs and damage assessments, conducted community training and distribution of water filtration kits, and coordinated delivery of essential supplies. Our Liaison Officers ran an airbridge, transporting medical staff and supplies into Dominica and evacuating vulnerable people to more secure care, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization and the International Medical Corps.
Through 2018, international agencies recognised that more effective collaboration was essential for the region and a number of initiatives were put in place to address this need. Most notably of these, the Multi-National Civil Coordination Cell (MNCCC), hosted by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). This is established to be a physical and virtual hub to provide an integrated logistical coordination centre for the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) and international interests (American, British, French, Dutch, Canadian) in the region during a disaster.
In September 2018 the MNCCC was activated for the first time, when Hurricane Isaac was forming over the Atlantic. The weather system looked set to affect islands devastated by Irma and Maria in 2017, and which were still in a highly vulnerable recovery state. Because of this fact, Rescue Global, like many other responders, deployed in advance of Hurricane Isaac making landfall. We sent a Liaison Officer to the British Overseas Territory island of Montserrat alongside a joint civil-military team from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Ministry of Defence. This team had the role of supporting the Governor’s and Premier’s offices, conducting post storm damage assessments, and activating teams on standby to deploy from the UK. The MNCCC at CDEMA received Liaison Officers from a number of agencies and countries in order to monitor and coordinate information flows about the event.
Fortunately, Hurricane Isaac dissipated before making landfall but provided an ideal opportunity to test out these new initiatives put in place since the destructive 2017 hurricane season.
At the Caribbean Security Conference 2019 Hannah talked through the Rescue Global activities in the region through 2017 and 2018, and outlined key resilience initiatives that RG is undertaking. These include Disaster Resilience Workshops that aim to facilitate households, communities and workplaces to boost disaster awareness and preparedness, as well as teach simple self-rescue techniques. Rescue Global also provides risk management consultancy services to the private sector through its Organisational Resilience Programme. For example, by running ongoing life safety projects within corporate facilities, and disaster response services for private sector clients affected by catastrophic events. We are also developing joint academic projects to better understand how disasters increase vulnerability to human trafficking and modern slavery, a causal link that has been anecdotally reported, but not empirically studied.
Other themes discussed during the conference were improved coordination and preparedness for disaster logistics, the value of civil-military joint exercises and simulations, the risk of complacency following an uneventful hurricane season, the need for donor agencies to generate more resilience (not response) funding mechanisms, and newly emerging threats such as pandemics, climate change, and mass migration.