To address the lack of information and communications readiness in the Caribbean region, NetHope and NetHope partners will work together to carry out a five-part regional preparedness plan. The plan will ensure that key ICT assets are in place for deployment anywhere in the region after a natural disaster. The five key parts of the plan are as follows.
Prepositioned Equipment: Communications equipment, solar panels, batteries, and generators will be pre-positioned in Panama City, Panama and San Juan, Puerto Rico to enable rapid deployment in the region.
Trained Staff: Trained technical staff will be available for deployment from a number of partner organizations - including Facebook (around 20 staff), Google (around 10 staff), Cisco, Microsoft, Amazon, and NetHope member NGOs. Training will be conducted by a consortium of technology companies including Cisco, Ericsson, Adaptrum, and Red52 and NGOs including NetHope, Save the Children, and ICE-SAR. As a result, NetHope will have a roster of over 100 qualified information and communications staff ready to install and support various communications solutions (e.g. wi-fi hot spots, satellite communications) and power (e.g. solar, generators) in the event of a disaster.
Data Sharing Agreements: NetHope will establish formal data sharing agreements with key government, non-governmental, and private sector actors in the region. To date, data sharing agreements have been forged with the World Food Programme, Facebook, and NetHope member NGOs. Data will include information to support logistics, communications and essential services (e.g. health, food security, shelter, family reunification, etc.)
Information as Aid: NetHope and its partners will implement Information as Aid programs designed to empower emergency responders and affected communities with "news you can use" post-disaster. At its core, NetHope’s program is designed to provide “news you can use” using Facebook for Good as a platform.
Data Sharing Platform: NetHope will establish an online data sharing platform to support operational decision making by emergency responders. Data will include information to support logistics, communications and essential services (e.g. health, food security, shelter, family reunification, etc.)
NetHope and its partners will work to pre-position equipment and conduct training through the summer of 2018 into the fall of 2018.
NetHope anticipates that there will be a natural disaster in the region in the second half of 2018. NetHope and NetHope partners will respond and following that response will update the preparedness programs for 2019.
The Caribbean islands are extremely vulnerable to many natural hazards including floods and droughts, tropical storms and hurricanes, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic events. Climate change is further affecting these hazards due to sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns, ocean acidification, and more extreme weather events.
During the 2017 hurricane season, two category 5 storms, Irma and Maria, struck the Caribbean Islands within two weeks of each other, causing wide-spread devastation over Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Bahamas, Cuba, Dominica, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten/St. Martin, British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Turks and Caicos. Hurricane Maria destroyed over 90% of Puerto Rico’s communication and power infrastructure, leaving many areas without power or communication for up to six months after landfall. Reports on damage for many of the smaller islands took days to reach the outside world. The damage from the two hurricanes alone is estimated to be over $150 billion.
Many Caribbean islands are remote and have limited communication and power infrastructures that are susceptible to high winds and natural disasters. The economies of the small island states and overseas territories are extremely vulnerable to these hazards, making the islands’ livelihood and infrastructure at risk for natural disasters.
Natural disasters will continue to strike the Caribbean Islands in years to come. Hurricane season runs from June to October every year, and seismic activity in the region will likely continue for years to come. Preparedness is a key part of any resiliency plan; no matter how resilient a Caribbean island is, there will always be a need for rescue, response, and recovery after an emergency.