With the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season underway, the American Red Cross is supporting several national Red Cross societies in the Caribbean to bolster disaster preparedness.
These Red Cross efforts seek to address heightened vulnerability to natural disasters during hurricane season, including flooding and landslides, through activities such as developing Community Disaster Response Teams and disaster plans and employing mitigation techniques such as drainage ditches and roof-securing straps. The projects are expected to benefit more than 34,000 people throughout the region.
With two tropical systems in the Atlantic this year even before the official 2012 hurricane season started June 1, the global Red Cross network is amplifying its disaster preparedness activities and promoting partnerships to broaden the reach of life-saving information and assistance.
“Over the years, the American Red Cross has supported Red Cross societies and the communities they serve throughout the Latin America and Caribbean region, helping them acquire the skills they need to make it safely through the season,” said Guillermo Garcia, American Red Cross regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “And we stand ready to respond if our help is needed.”
In Haiti, the American Red Cross is helping to assess and improve early warning systems for incoming storms that may significantly impact the uniquely vulnerable country. The Red Cross is partnered there with Voila, the second-largest cellular network, for mass messaging distribution.
“Messages can be sent by geographical area ranging from the entire country, down to a small area around a single phone mast. They are limited to 140 characters, in Creole, and always begin with ‘Red Cross,’” said Mark South, beneficiary communications delegate for the Red Cross in Haiti.
For those who still live in camps and may not have access to cell phones, American Red Cross Disaster Risk Reduction teams continue to work toward ensuring every resident is aware of the color-coded flag alert system, and appropriate evacuation routes.
In addition, the Latin America Risk Reduction Activity program, an American Red Cross partnership initiative, aims to build more resilient communities in Central and South America by partnering with national Red Cross societies to focus on disaster preparedness and response capacities. More than 41,000 people – in both urban and rural communities – are expected to benefit from the program, which provides training in various disaster safety practices.
In the midst of the May storms, the American Red Cross participated in two regional hurricane preparedness meetings, in Mexico and Barbados, where there was a strong emphasis on assessing ongoing hurricane preparedness and response initiatives throughout the Caribbean.
At the conference in Barbados, the Red Cross highlighted its new partnerships with well known corporations in the region: Coca-Cola and Digicel. The major beverage company is encouraging its employees and bottlers to actively support the Red Cross in their home countries. The largest cellular service provider of the Caribbean is working with the Red Cross to develop a text alert system for preparedness and safety tips and early warnings.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.