Regional risk manager preps countries for hurricane season

The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) has provided training in its Real-Time Forecasting System (RTFS) to Caribbean nations to help them to prepare for tropical cyclones that are expected to affect the region as the hurricane season gets underway.

In a press release, CCRIF said it made available the RFTS to all its members and hosted a training session with 78 persons from 18 Caribbean countries to teach them to use the RFTS effectively. “The RTFS is a storm impact forecast tool which provides users with real-time hurricane hazard and impact information and can support users in effective disaster preparedness and response, evacuation decision making, planning for pre-positioning of equipment and supplies as well as in contingency planning to secure critical infrastructure and operations prior to a hurricane,” the release said. This is the fourth year in which the RTFS has been made available by the CCRIF and a total of 146 persons have registered for access to the RFTS this year, a 60% increase over last year.

According to the release, in July, in collaboration with the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology and Kinetic Analysis Corporation, CCRIF hosted two sets of training on the RFTS. Seventy-eight persons participated in the two-day online course, titled ‘Understanding the Real-Time Forecasting System – a Practical course Designed to Strengthen Caribbean Governments’ Disaster Response and Mitigation Capacity.’

The training focused on improving participants’ understanding of hurricane risks, providing them with general information on what forecasting is and what it involves while introducing its limitations. Equal importance was also given to introducing participants to various topics, including the key features of the RFTS product; understanding the RFTS modelling platform; the application of the RFTS; electing locations to be included in the RFTS product and introducing the use of Google Earth, the platform through which the RFTS product is delivered.

The release said the participants included personnel from disaster management departments and meteorological offices, ministries of planning, agriculture and finance as well as a number of international development agencies working in countries across the region in disaster risk management. Based on an evaluation held at the end of the session, participants said the training was a success, with 94% of them rating the course as very good, and over 80% rating the content as either excellent or very good.

The CCRIF believes that the training, as well as providing access to the RFTS, is timely and represents significant progress in disaster risk management for the region. Dr Simon Young of the CCRIF Facility Supervisor team noted that the RFTS training will boost the region’s capacity and readiness to management the potential impact of the storms during this year’s hurricane season. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it expects 12 to 18 tropical storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes and 3 to 6 major hurricanes with winds of 111mph or greater during this hurricane season, which spans June 1 to November 30. The first storm, Arlene, developed on June 29 in the Gulf of Mexico and struck Veracruz, Mexico, killing 25 people. Through July, activity occurred at an above normal pace with the formation of three named storms, and the National Hurricane Centre is expecting Tropical Storm Emily to form within the first few days this month.

According to CCRIF Facility Supervisor team and facilitator on the RFTS course Ekhoseuhi Iyahen, many members who have used the RFTS can attest to its value. She noted that when Hurricane Tomas struck members Barbados, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines in October 2010, “prior preparations using real-time storm impact forecasts from the RFTS played a positive role in reducing damage levels in these countries and also helped to minimise loss of life during the storm.”

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