As Tropical Storm Chantal moves westward across the Atlantic Ocean, the American Red Cross is working with its Caribbean partners to prepare for high winds and heavy rains from the storm.
The storm sustained top wind speeds of 50 mph early July 9, and forecasters predict that it could gain strength throughout the week as it enters the Caribbean Sea.
“We’ve been working with our island nation partners to prepare their most vulnerable communities for events like Tropical Storm Chantal,” said Matthew Marek, Caribbean representative for the American Red Cross. “As the storm approaches, Red Cross volunteers will help to activate early warning systems and keep community leaders informed about the storm’s progress and what they should be doing to prepare.”
In St. Lucia, which was under a tropical storm warning on Monday, preparations include a review of processes that Community Disaster Response Teams have been practicing for months with help from the Red Cross, including First Aid training and refresher courses. Additionally, teams are working to finish drainage canals in areas at risk of flooding from heavy rainfall, and to reinforce community spaces for meetings and emergency equipment storage.
In the Bahamas, where Chantal is projected to make landfall later this week, teams are focusing on identifying areas to improve safety by assisting families with disaster plans and working with communities to raise awareness. The American Red Cross is supporting the Bahamas Red Cross to target more than 1,400 households in vulnerable communities to create family preparedness plans.
“We have carried out two drills so far this year that focus on how families in the Bahamas would respond to a storm bringing high winds and heavy rains, causing considerable damage to vehicles and buildings, including the local school,” Marek said.
In Haiti, the Red Cross continues to support disaster preparedness in camps and communities, now nearly three and a half years since the January 2010 earthquake, through efforts such as maintaining drainage canals and retaining walls, and improving community knowledge of risks and evacuation routes.
“After Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Isaac hit Haiti last year, several camps confirmed that the alert system carried out by the Red Cross, including radio alerts, text messages and megaphone announcements were very effective,” said Juslain Mathieu, national disaster risk manager for the American Red Cross in Haiti. “We are continuing to make sure our field teams and camp committees are adequately trained and ready to be deployed as soon as necessary this season.”
Last year, the American Red Cross reached more than 450,000 people in 33 countries through its disaster preparedness programs, in which it has invested more than $48 million over the past five years.