Multi-hazards early warning system for Dominica

With golden sands, azure-hued waters and temperature averages sitting nicely in the mid-20s, the island nation of Dominica in the Caribbean is a picturesque paradise you’d see on a postcard or a screensaver.

It’s Dominica’s tropical location that gives it its paradise-like qualities. That same location however, leaves Dominica prone to hurricanes, high-wind, high-rainfall, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

On September 18 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Dominica, leaving $1.37 billion in losses across the island, equal to 226 times its 2016 GDP. 65 lives were claimed in its wake – the deadliest hurricane in Dominica in over 150 years.

While hurricanes can’t be prevented, a sufficient early warning system can provide ample forewarning to help mitigate damage to infrastructure and reduce loss of life.

“It’s been three years since Hurricane Maria hit Dominica”, says Tonkin + Taylor’s Bapon Fakhruddin.  “People are still awaiting assistance to repair their homes and there’s not much in the way of improvement”.

Tonkin + Taylor’s Bapon Fakhruddin is one of the world’s pre-eminent leaders in disaster risk reduction and early warning systems (EWS) and has just been tasked by the United Nations Development Programme for Dominica to help produce Dominica’s new multi-hazard impact based early warning system, in conjunction with the Dominica Meteorological Service and Office of Disaster Management.

“Post-Hurricane Maria, several EWS initiatives were put in place in Dominica but they lack consistency, standardisation or harmonisation”, says Bapon. “I’m designing a new system based on user need and local context to help reduce life and property damage”.

Early warning systems are a major element in disaster risk reduction through the emphasis on disaster preparedness. Despite considerable advances in predictive technologies, hydro-meteorological and geo-hazards continue to claim many thousands of lives while wreaking irreparable damage upon homes, businesses and critical infrastructure. This continuously results in leaving impoverished economies in their destructive wake.

Implementation of the early warning system is close and Bapon sees further collaboration as integral to the process:

“Developing the multi-hazard early warning system is an iterative and evolving process that needs to be undertaken in close communication with stakeholders. We have sent through our design. Now it’s over to the Government to ensure the system is integrated and harmonized to save lives and reduce damages from future disaster.

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