UNDRR ROAMC: How disaster preparedness makes the difference when disaster hits

When COVID began to infiltrate the Caribbean, the World Food Programme (WFP) quickly contacted governments to find how to best help funnel cash to people left struggling to feed their families as jobs began to melt away.

For Dominica, helping rapidly digitalize the country's largely paper-based data collection and payment systems was the speediest and most effective solution, says Regis Chapman, head of office for WFP in Barbados.

Within weeks, WFP helped Dominica implement systems to more efficiently collect and analyze the data needed to determine who was eligible for payments to help ride out the pandemic.

By printing scannable QR codes on payment envelopes and asking people to sign digitally to confirm receipt, Dominica quickly created a visualization dashboard to show where and when funds were distributed.

“We're now looking at developing an information management system to better manage data on all their social protection programs, not just the public assistance program," says Chapman.

“The socio-economic aspect of COVID has been devastating. The lowest income groups are the people who are most affected and we’ve seen huge spikes in food insecurity.”

WFP’s shock responsive social protection program is one of the many in the Caribbean supported by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) which has provided $183 million in aid to the region - excluding Haiti - since 1994.

Through its DIPECHO disaster preparedness program, $50 million of those funds have targeted disaster risk reduction and community resilience programs.

Now as middle-income Caribbean countries compete with other parts of the world for increasingly tight donor funding, it is more important than ever to show how projects support communities and protect lives and livelihoods, say experts.

BLUEPRINTS

Presenting evidence of successful schemes also helps create templates that can be used in other parts of the world, says Saskia Carusi, external relations officer for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean (UNDRR).

“It’s important to show how successful projects are from an accountability point of view," says Panama-based Carusi.

"But for ECHO, it’s important to show evidence that projects save lives and make a difference, and that there are still needs in the region."

The best evidence should be a combination of quantitative data showing how losses are reduced by disaster risk reduction projects, alongside qualitative examples of how schemes work on the ground, says Carusi.

Evidence should also examine whether localized, pilot projects can be rolled out in neighboring communities or even scaled up to a national level, she says.

With EU funding, UNDRR has created the dipecholac.net platform where organizations can highlight their Caribbean projects and show how they relate to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

It now wants organizations to upload videos, documents and infographics to the site that show how Caribbean projects have been adapted to make a difference during the pandemic and other emergencies.

For the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the pandemic has underscored the importance of preparing Caribbean communities to deal with multiple hazards, says Marisa Clarke-Marshall, IFRC coordinator, partnerships and planning.

During the crisis, Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs) trained by the Red Cross with ECHO funding to deal with hazards such as hurricanes, have rapidly adapted to help communities cope with COVID, she says.

Trained primarily to conduct initial damage assessments, give first aid and coordinate immediate response, CDRTs have helped identify those most in need in their communities, and deliver cash vouchers and hygiene kits.

The CDRT project has attracted attention from major donors keen to set up similar teams elsewhere, while an ECHO-funded tool to assess risk and vulnerabilities is now used globally, she says.

HIGH-LEVEL IMPACT

Events such as November’s UNDRR co-organized VII Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean provide an opportunity for both governments, multilaterals and non-profits to show which projects best helped tackle COVID while continuing to ramp up preparedness.

For UNDRR, its projects to boost Caribbean business resilience reaped dividends during the pandemic as companies adapted their continuity plans that were primarily designed to tackle climate-related crises, says Carusi.

Its EU-funded project to increase preparedness and disaster risk reduction through the Caribbean Safe Schools Initiative is now generating interest from other countries in Latin America, says Carusi.

"UNDRR’s work on policy and advocacy in the long run has a higher impact," says Carusi.

For WFP, EU funding is supporting its work with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA) to pre-position generators, prefabricated units and other gear to help countries better prepare, save lives and reduce losses.

"A lot of what we're looking at is how do we help government systems to become more resilient," says Chapman.

"One of the region's prime ministers recently said, everybody says the Caribbean is so resilient, it's that we have to be. You have to stand up when you're knocked down and start all over again because what other choice do you have."

[Source: UNDRR]

Keystone Accidents Investigated by GOA

The Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) required TC Energy to take additional safety measures specified in a special permit as conditions of allowing certain portions of the Keystone Pipeline (Keystone) to operate at a higher stress level than allowed by regulation. PHMSA reviewed technical information and drew on its experience granting similar permits to natural gas pipelines to develop 51 conditions with which TC Energy must comply. Most pipeline safety and technical stakeholders GAO interviewed agreed the conditions offset the risks of operating at a higher stress level. However, PHMSA did not allow TC Energy to fully operate Keystone at this higher stress level until 2017, after TC Energy replaced pipe affected by industry-wide pipeline quality issues.

Keystone's accident history has been similar to other crude oil pipelines since 2010, but the severity of spills has worsened in recent years. Similar to crude oil pipelines nationwide, most of Keystone's 22 accidents from 2010 through 2020 released fewer than 50 barrels of oil and were contained on operator-controlled property such as a pump station. The two largest spills in Keystone's history in 2017 and 2019 were among the six accidents that met PHMSA's criteria for accidents “impacting people or the environment.” According to PHMSA's measures for these more severe types of accidents, from 2010 to 2020 TC Energy performed better than nationwide averages, but worse in the past five years due to the 2017 and 2019 spills.

The Keystone Pipeline has transported over 3 billion barrels of crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries since 2010. Keystone's accident history is similar to other pipelines, but the severity of its spills has worsened in recent years due to 2 large spills in 2017 and 2019.

The Department of Transportation required Keystone operator TC Energy to investigate and address the root causes of the 4 largest spills. DOT has also issued enforcement actions and civil penalties for problems like inadequate corrosion prevention. Based on Keystone "lessons learned," DOT has increased inspection resources for other pipelines during construction.

In response to each of Keystone's four largest spills, PHMSA issued Corrective Action Orders requiring TC Energy to investigate the accidents' root causes and take necessary corrective actions. These investigations found that the four accidents were caused by issues related to the original design, manufacturing of the pipe, or construction of the pipeline. PHMSA also issued other enforcement actions and assessed civil penalties to TC Energy for deficiencies found during inspections, such as inadequate corrosion prevention and missing pipeline markers. Based in part on its experience overseeing Keystone, PHMSA officials said they have increased resources to conduct inspections during construction of other pipelines and are establishing a more formal process to document and track the compliance of all special permits, including Keystone's permit.

Asia-Pacific needs to tackle overlapping crises

The Asia-Pacific region needs to step up efforts to prepare for and tackle complex, overlapping crises in order to increase the resilience of its people as well as its economies, with climate change threatening to dwarf the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, a key meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific has heard.

“Notwithstanding the progress made by many countries in devising more robust systems of early warning and responsive protection - with far fewer people dying as a result of natural disasters - the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that almost without exception, countries around the world are still ill-prepared to deal with multiple overlapping crises, which often cascade,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

“Tropical cyclones, for example, can lead to floods, which lead to disease, which exacerbates poverty,” she told the ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Since the start of the pandemic, the region has been hit by multiple natural and biological disasters. At the same time, climate change has continued to warm the world, exacerbating the impacts of many of these disasters. The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2021, which was launched during ESCAP’s Disaster Reslience Week, shows that the pandemic, combined with the persistent reality of climate change, has reshaped and expanded the disaster “riskscape” in Asia and the Pacific.

Resilience in Asia-PacificThe triple threat of disease, disaster and climate change is causing not only considerable human hardship but also significant economic losses. Currently, the annual average disaster-related losses are $780 billion. This could nearly double, to around $1.4 trillion, in a worst-case climate scenario. Choosing a proactive strategy of adapting to natural and other biological hazards would be far more cost-effective at an annual cost of $270 billion, said the report.

WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas urged great ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to accelerate climate change adaptation.

“If we fail with the climate change mitigation, the impact is going to be felt for centuries or even millennia, so the scale of the problem we are talking about when it comes to climate change, the scale is much bigger,” Prof. Taalas told ESCAP’s Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.

The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted the increasing severity of the physical impacts of climate change because of record concentrations of greenhouse gases. This includes long-term melting of glaciers, snow and ice cover, sea level rise and ocean acidification, which will last for centuries or even thousands of years, Prof. Taalas said in a video address.

“Heatwaves, drought, forest fires, flooding, landslides and tropical storms are becoming more intense, as a result. Last year was the warmest year on record in Asia and we have also seen record breaking flooding, especially in East Asia” Prof. Taalas said.

The ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction is charged with addressing the following issues: (a) emergence of cascading risks and extension of the disaster risk-scape; (b) scaling-up multisectoral cooperation frameworks to manage cascading risks; and (c) status of regional co-operation efforts.

WMO was represented in several expert group meetings, panel discussions and side events. WMO and ESCAP have a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to build resilience to climate and disaster risks and the promotion of impact-based early warning services and systems. The two organizations have a long history of cooperation by jointly establishing the Typhoon Committee.

Prof. Taalas stressed the importance of building capacity in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States to adapt to climate change and build resilience, in particular through investments in early warning services.

However, major gaps in observing systems in many parts of the world, including islands and least developed countries in the Asia-Pacific region, have a negative impact on the quality of early warning services. WMO’s new initiative, the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) seeks to close these gaps and leverage sustainable financing.

Floods in Europe underline need for increased investment in Disaster Risk Management

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, today extended her condolences to all those affected by the current severe floods across Europe and urged greater investment in disaster risk reduction against a natural hazard which, until the arrival of COVID-19, has typically affected more people annually than any other disaster type.
“I send my heartfelt condolences to the people and governments of Germany and Belgium where lives have been lost and my sympathy is also with the people of the Netherlands, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland on the disruption caused by these record rains. Lives, homes, and livelihoods have been lost in a flood event of such magnitude that people had difficulty in comprehending what action they could take to protect themselves from it.
“Europe has seen major flooding before but rarely on this scale and with such harrowing loss of life. This underlines the importance of getting to grips with measures to adapt cities, towns and rural areas to the shocks that arise to our weather systems in a warming world. We need to make our urban areas more resilient to floods and storms to mitigate the impacts of large volumes of water and the landslides that usually accompany such phenomena.
“I am particularly concerned about media reports that in at least one incident nine persons living with disabilities lost their lives. National and local strategies for disaster risk reduction must take full account of the needs of such persons as well as others who may have mobility issues including older persons, children, and pregnant women. It is essential that disability organizations are involved in the disaster management planning process.
“While linking one disaster event with climate change is complicated, it is undoubtedly the case that over the last twenty years of record-breaking temperatures there has been a concomitant rise in the number of extreme weather events across the globe. The challenge before us is not just to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but to invest in adaptation to save lives, reduce economic losses and protect critical infrastructure.
“Europe will meet later this year in Portugal to discuss progress on implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the global plan to reduce disaster losses. That discussion will be an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned from the tragic events now unfolding across Europe due to record heavy rains and to see how we can better adapt to climate change, improve multi-hazard early warning systems and strengthen public understanding of disaster risk.”

Telcos strengthen India’s disaster preparedness

When Cyclone Tauktae struck India’s western coastal areas several months ago, it brought mass destruction of property and disrupted daily life in five Indian states.
Despite the storm’s ‘extremely severe’ designation, the damage and loss of lives were less than expected. This was thanks in large part to national disaster preparation plans, underpinned by information and communication technologies (ICTs) and timely preparation by telecom operators.
Technology plays a pivotal role at each stage of disaster management, from early warning and mitigation to response, and then to post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation.
Collaborative action on the ground
To prepare for the upcoming disaster, the Indian government had already implemented standard operating procedures (SOPs), whereby telecom operators initiated inter-operator roaming services that let mobile phone users switch easily between networks based on availability.
Priority call routing enabled rescue and relief crews to coordinate with government officials, including in the vital restoration work in Tauktae’s aftermath.
On-site diesel and battery back-up were ready to mitigate any power cuts, while coordination was stepped up with the National Disaster Management Authority, the National Disaster Relief Force, and central, state and local governments.
Challenges for operators during disasters
Telecom and ICT operators form the backbone of connectivity across the world. But ICT services can be hard to maintain – let alone expand – during earthquakes, tsunamis or a pandemic.
Natural hazards often damage towers, power generators, cables and wires. At the same time, network congestion arises as people call family and friends, frequently hampering rescue and relief operations.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, telecom and Internet usage have surged everywhere.
Meanwhile, with shops closed, pre-paid mobile consumers could not recharge their credit.
Still, telecom operators maintained the continuity of services and facilitated online recharges for pre-paid users.
By the time of the May 2021 cyclone, lessons from both before and during the pandemic, had made India’s telecom networks more robust and resilient, with sufficient adaptability and scalability to handle demand spikes.
How operators can prepare
Access to robust and secure ICT infrastructure is critical. Putting resilient networks and disaster management tools in place well ahead of time helps to mitigate negative impacts.
Wherever feasible, telecom operators must upgrade to 4G or 5G, as well as educate staff and raise awareness among customers on how to withstand disaster situations, including recharging subscriptions online with mobile devices.
Inter-operator roaming agreements can ensure continuous service for all customers in a disaster-affected area, even if the infrastructure of one or two operators suffers damage. Along with temporary solutions like CoW, operators can turn to satellite-based plug-and-play networks to stand in for damaged terrestrial infrastructure.

International Code Council resources help prepare for safety and recovery as Atlantic hurricane season begins

The International Code Council is committed to helping communities stay safe in the midst of hurricanes and tropical cyclones as June marks the beginning of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season and preparing for natural disaster safety and recovery is a top priority.
All levels of government and the private sector must work together to ensure communities are safe and resilient from devastating natural disasters. Throughout hurricane season, the International Code Council is dedicated to helping communities stay safe in their homes, workplaces and neighborhoods.
The Code Council and its members are ready to help through the Disaster Response Alliance. Local and state jurisdictions in the U.S. as well as federal agencies may also contact the Disaster Response Alliance for help to reach skilled professionals who volunteer to assist jurisdictions that request aid with building damage assessment, building inspections and other code-related functions in disaster areas. Code Council members also assist devastated communities with post-disaster building plans reviews, inspections and permit operations through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).
“The momentum and awareness we’ve raised during Building Safety Month about the importance of disaster mitigation and building code adoption continues as we enter this year’s hurricane season,” said Code Council CEO Dominic Sims, CBO. “Code officials play an integral role in preparing communities for natural disasters and in navigating recovery after a devastating event. The Code Council and its members are ready to help protect our communities.”
The Code Council, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and state and local officials will host a webinar on the implementation of FEMA’s new disaster recovery policy for code enforcement and administration. This new policy offers building officials and communities an effective way to access many of the resources needed to effectively administer and enforce building codes and floodplain management ordinances for up to 180 days following a major disaster declaration. Register for this free webinar to learn about more about this important new policy, including what activities are eligible and how to apply for reimbursement.
Resources to help prepare for hurricane season:
- Seasonal Hurricane Predictions
- FEMA: Hurricane Safety
- Building Safety Month Week 4: Disaster Preparedness
- Visit the Code Council’s Hurricane Safety & Recovery page to access more useful links and resources to help prepare for hurricane season.

Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience North America announce Preliminary Conference Programme for October

Download your Preliminary Conference Program guide today at www.ciprna-expo.com/PSG

As the recent Ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline, JBS, Dassault Falcon Jet Corp, CNA Financial, and others has demonstrated, as well as the on-going threats from natural hazards/disasters, terrorist attacks and man-made disasters, it is becoming increasingly important for policies and procedures to be implemented to protect our critical infrastructure for a more secure nation.

It gives us great pleasure to invite you to join us at Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience North America in New Orleans, Louisiana, for what will be 3 days of exciting and informative discussions on securing North America’s critical infrastructure.

With a leading line up of international expert speakers, sharing their knowledge, expertise and experiences, we know you will find this a most rewarding and enjoyable event and look forward to seeing you in New Orleans, for the next in-person meeting on October 19th-21st, 2021, where we will ensure a safe and Covid compliant environment for discussing how to secure North America's critical infrastructure.

Download your Preliminary Conference Program guide today at www.ciprna-expo.com/PSG and discover more on this premier conference program, expert speakers and showcase exhibiting companies.

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