Haiti is facing its first major storm of the 2012 hurricane season as Tropical Storm Isaac moves across the Caribbean Sea.
With sustained winds of more than 40mph, it is expected to make landfall over Hispaniola by Friday night, possibly reaching hurricane strength by the time it hits Haiti.
“We are closely coordinating our preparedness and response efforts here,” said Sinan Al-Najjar, deputy country representative for the American Red Cross in Haiti. “The Red Cross is equipping 150 Community Based Disaster Response Teams (CBDRTs) in 55 camps in the Port-au-Prince area alone to prepare for the storm.”
Red Cross programs continue to target vulnerable populations – including those remaining in camps – with instruction in first aid and first response, flood mitigation and cholera prevention.
Through close collaboration with community-based disaster response teams, American Red Cross Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs are improving preparedness for storms like Isaac, especially by ensuring that locals know of and understand early warning systems and emergency evacuation plans.
Response team members – who live within the communities they serve and therefore have better access to spread vital information quickly – not only receive and disseminate evacuation guidelines, they also direct residents to open shelters and are trained to provide first aid.
“If a camp is in a flood risk area, we work with the Haitian government to alert the residents to move to pre-identified, safe high ground,” said Al-Najjar. “If an area is not in direct flood risk, we advise them on how to prepare by stocking food and water, etc.”
The American Red Cross is also supporting other Red Cross response teams in Haiti by providing warehouse space for emergency relief items, and transportation and distribution of aid and relief items if needed.
Given the various terrain throughout Haiti, the overall impact from the storm will vary in different areas. While coastal regions face more risk from high winds, in-land communities are more susceptible to landslides and flash flooding.
The Red Cross network has Emergency Response Teams on standby throughout the country, ready to distribute prepositioned emergency supplies – including hygiene kits, blankets and tarpaulins – to reach up to 25,000 families.