A shore road in St Kitts during Tropical Storm Rafael, October 12, 2012
Photo courtesy St Kitts and Nevis Observer
November 19, 2012—Much of the world’s headlines have been dominated by the widespread battering inflicted by this season’s hurricanes. In the small Caribbean twin-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the population inevitably watches for signs of extreme weather with great concern. They also take determined action.
This year saw fresh momentum for such action—even though St. Kitts was mercifully spared the worst of 2012’s havoc and destruction, with Tropical Storm Rafael causing little more than floods and mudslides near the southwest shore.
UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, had held a spring series of workshops on disaster preparedness for the region. The Leeward Islands District of the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA) was quick to participate in the workshop that was mounted in Barbados (others took place in Jamaica and Panama).
Brother Al Elmes of the St. Kitts Circuit was able, along with the others, to take advantage of the resources and experience laid out by representatives from Guyana, the South Caribbean, and from other Leeward Islands besides St Kitts, under expert guidance from UMCOR’s then international disaster response executive, Melissa Crutchfield, and its US disaster response executive, Rev. Tom Hazelwood.
They all got to learn how best to marshal material resources and volunteers once a disaster strikes; and they were also briefed on the importance of identifying ahead of any disaster just what local resources and capacities already exist, and analyzing what gaps would need to be filled.
Above all, the need to create an action plan in readiness for extreme weather or any other kind of disaster was greatly emphasized.
The participants took back to their individual congregations all they had absorbed in the workshop, and In St. Kitts, it was only three months before an action plan for the circuit was set in place for all member churches, with the active involvement of each individual congregation.
In line with the proven paths to recovery outlined in the workshop, the St Kitts action plan establishes clear internal lines of communication, well-rehearsed modes of connection with other, national crisis-responders, and makes available a comprehensive set of maps illustrating island risks and hazards, and, also, access and distribution points for all available resources.
St. Kitts has certainly known terrible calamity brought about by extreme weather, not least in 1998 when category-4 Hurricane Georges roared ashore with 115mph winds, destroying nearly a quarter of all the island’s homes.
But, in the words of Melissa Crutchfield, “St. Kitts today is a great example of how training works; with the workshop participants taking it upon themselves to go the extra mile when they get home—and get themselves well ahead of the game when it comes to having to respond in their own backyards.”
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*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.