With the 2014 hurricane season having arrived, people in the neighborhood of Carrefour Feuilles in Haiti are cleaning ravines to prevent flooding, discussing evacuation routes, and testing their storm sirens.
With the help of the American Red Cross, Haitians are preparing for this year’s severe weather.
Joel Wilson Raphael, a resident of Carrefour Feuilles, was trained by the Red Cross to warn his neighbors about incoming weather. Using flags and sirens provided by the Red Cross, Joel and other volunteers take charge of sounding the alarms – which lets people know when severe weather is on the way.
In Haiti, knowing about the arrival of strong storms is not an insignificant thing. Landslides, flooding, and infrastructure damage can be severe, so ensuring that people cut dangerous tree limbs or evacuate to temporary shelters—such as schools, churches or large buildings—could mean the difference between life and death for Joel’s neighbors.
‘’When people are informed in advance about a [hurricane]…they have time to prepare, so there is less chance of having victims,” Joel said. “People who live at the edge of gullies for example have the time to prepare for evacuation.’’
Throughout hurricane season, Joel and other volunteers educate residents of Carrefour Feuilles about the warning system. An orange flag means bad weather will make landfall in less than two days—a sign that people should stock up on food and water, store important papers in a safe place, prepare evacuation bags, and other tasks. A red flag means bad weather is imminent in less than one day—a symbol that families should take shelter or evacuate if necessary. This is all in addition to large-scale activities put in place by the Haitian Red Cross, like mass awareness campaigns through the radio and SMS alert messages.
The Red Cross also helps parents and children to create individualized emergency plans for all types of disasters.
Dalida Cadaste and her 7 year-old daughter feel ready to react if a hurricane hits. “Now that the American Red Cross has prepared with us the family emergency plan, in case of [hurricane] we know exactly what we should do,” Dalida said. “For example, we know that we have to make sure we have an emergency kit and we have already planned where we will shelter.”
Places like Carrefour Feuilles aren’t easy to navigate in the rain—the neighborhood streets and walkways are both slippery and hilly. So in order to alleviate the damage done by heavy rains and facilitate easy passage for families, residents are digging drainage canals and cleaning out the ravines that run through their neighborhoods.
Using wheelbarrows, shovels, gloves, work boots, and trucks provided by the Red Cross, residents are preventing floods that can be dangerous to residents like Dalida and her daughter. Cleaning ravines and controlling run-off also stem the spread of cholera and mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria and dengue—health initiatives that the Red Cross addresses in Haiti year-round.
The Red Cross will continue to help Haitian communities reduce injuries, fatalities, and property damage this hurricane season, working alongside community members and local partners in its efforts.
“When it is people living in the community who raise awareness about preparations for the hurricane season, people take it more seriously,'' Joel said.