7th CDM Conference: A model for disaster resilience – safer houses

Montego Bay, Jamaica, December 4th, 2012, (Panos) - High in the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, Claverty Cottage and Clifton Hill are two adjoining remote communities, which were severely affected by Tropical Storm Nicole in 2010. Many roofs were damaged or completely blown off.

For this community, the application of the  Safer Houses methodology  resulted in homes still standing during subsequent weather events including Hurricane Sandy this year.

Safer Houses is one of the approaches that has been developed and contextualised to respond to Caribbean vulnerabilities by the Red Cross.

Reynette Royer  Coordinator, Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Resource Center shared with conference attendees at  the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)’s  7th Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management  the methodology whose aim  is to improve the knowledge of communities on how to reinforce wooden or concrete houses to better withstand the impacts of hazards commonly affecting Caribbean mainland and island states; namely hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.

The conference is on at the Hilton Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica from December 3rd – 7th, 2012,  convened under the theme: “CDM: Building Disaster Resilience – A Shared Responsibility.”

Through the intervention of the Red Cross (Jamaica, French and IFRC), the Safer Houses methodology was introduced. As a result, four  carpenters or community leaders were trained as community trainers and they in turn assisted in the training of 23 community members who lived in vulnerable houses or who had elderly family members living in such conditions, Royer reported.

With support from the Jamaica Red Cross and under its supervision, community members carried out the reinforcement of 39 houses.

Work included  replacing rotten wooden pillars, bracing the wooden structure, doubling studs around openings, installing hurricane straps from foundation to roof and, in some cases, replacing a few corrugated galvanized sheets.

As it is said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. During the recent passage of Hurricane Sandy (Category 1 – October 24, 2012), while there was some damage sustained to buildings in these two communities, none of the 39 houses previously reinforced were affected.

According to Royer, the methodology is most effective when implemented during the prevention phase.

She notes as well, “consistent with other Red Cross interventions at the community level, the methodology uses a participatory approach with hands-on practical construction exercises.”

Skilled workmen were not largely required, as homeowners were guided in doing changes needed by a technical team provided by the Red Cross.

There is room for replication in many other vulnerable communities. Royer expressed the belief that  this flagship tool of the Red Cross can specifically facilitate the identification of vulnerability in a dwelling to one or more of the following hazards: strong winds, earthquakes or floods.

She notes that the saffer Houses methodology is designed to be organised as two trainings. First, a Safer Houses Training of Trainers (ToT) should be conducted for four days with 8 to 10 participants. It is expected that 2 to 3 houses can be reinforced during the ToT under the guidance of one trainer and one assistant.

“Those who successfully complete the tests (oral and written) and practical exercises will be designated as Community Trainers. The second training is conducted with the community for a two-day period with 12 to 15 community members where 5 to 6 houses can be reinforced. Four community trainers are necessary in order to facilitate this practical training.”

Safer houses as a  resilience strategy  ultimately reduces the emergency as well as reconstruction and recovery activities.

Royer notes, “Safer Houses  creates a shared sense of responsibility amongst community members – young, old, women and men – towards each other.

“Furthermore, community members develop their knowledge on how to make their houses disaster-resistant and acquire practical skills in how to do this.”

The Safer Houses methodology was developed through a partnership between the French Red Cross – PIRAC, the IFRC – Caribbean Regional Representation Office and the Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Resource Center and funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) and the UK Aid for the Department for International Development (DFID).


Source: Avia Ustonny, Panos
Blog: http://cdmconference.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/a-model-for-disaster-resilience-safer-houses/ 

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