Months before the first storms of the hurricane season are likely to strike the shores of Hispaniola, IOM and the government have published Haiti's first policy guidelines on the use and functioning of evacuation shelters.
The evacuation shelter guide and an associated workshop, which continues today, are part of IOM's disaster risk reduction and management support for the government, which includes a programme to train grassroots volunteers in civil defence.
The guide was released in Port-au-Prince on 8 February as part of a two-day hurricane preparedness workshop, with participants coming from across the country. The guide and associated workshops, as well as field visits, looked at issues such as construction standards and rehabilitation of sites, as well as policy and procedures.
An introduction prepared by Haiti's department for Civil Protection noted that earthquake of January 12, 2010 exposed deep structural and organizational fissures in the country's institutions. The result is that prevention efforts are undermined every year, thereby putting lives and property needlessly at risk.
IOM has both initiated and supported technical assessments of over 500 potential evacuation shelters around the country, to determine usability and structural stability. The organization built or rehabilitated a total of 29 shelters. The need for the guide became apparent during construction, because of concerns for the management of these sites during emergencies, including difficult choices over who will have access.
This work was carried out with the same Ministry of Public Works engineers who assessed all buildings in the earthquake affected parts of the country, marking them red, for demolition, yellow for repair and green as safe to live in.
The two-day workshop officially launched the "Guide de Gestion des Sites et Abris d'Evacuation" or "Guide to Evacuation Sites and Shelters". Produced as part of a joint IOM-government project, the guidelines and contents of the report were officially adopted as government policy on December 16th.
One important aim of the two-day workshop was to ensure that participants are trained in the use of emergency shelters in time of emergency and that the specifics of every region of Haiti are taken into account. Ordering an evacuation is a big step, not least in a country where so many live in flimsy or flood- prone accommodation. It also included a pilot project in evacuation in a rural area, which called for careful coordination at local level.
The workshop targeted first responders in emergencies, especially those charged with running the more than 500 emergency evacuation shelters around the country. The workshop was designed to strengthen local capacity especially at departmental, municipal and local levels in order to coordinate responses during hurricane season. Participants included delegates from the Haitian Red Cross and the Department for Civil Protection (DPC).
Particular focus was placed on the presence of department level technical coordinators; technical coordinators and Haitian Red Cross departmental coordinators.
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