January 14, 20111470Views

Friday, January 14 – The Virgin Islands has been selected as a beneficiary member state to receive the results of a Geographical Information Systems (GIS)-Based Early Warning System Project. It is being implemented by Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in conjunction with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

This initiative seeks to extend the positive outcomes of timely warnings for the evacuation of communities, encourage communities to take greater responsibility for their own safety, establish closer ties between communities, the public and private sectors, and increase the use of GIS applications for Disaster Early Warning Systems.

A meeting held yesterday included GIS officers from the Town and Country Planning Department (TCP), DDM and Dr. Jacob Opadeyi, the consultant contracted by CDEMA to facilitate the implementation of the Project. Dr. Opadeyi is the Head and Professor of Geometrics Engineering and Land Management with the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago.

During the meeting, the consultant outlined the expected outputs of the Project and collected relevant data to commence the GIS based-Flood Risk Map, which is proposed for the coastal areas from Pockwood Pond to Paraquita Bay. This Project is timely, in light of the severity of the impacts of the recent 2010 Flash Flood events.

These maps will include evacuation routes from these areas in keeping with a Flood Contingency Protocol which will be tested to verify its use. In addition, TCP and DDM will receive mobile computer hardware and accompanying software which will incorporate a platform to receive, capture and store high sensitivity GPS data in difficult environments. Testing has already been undertaken in another Caribbean country after disaster management scenarios were developed, with positive results. As well, the project also seeks to increase awareness and subsequently, the preparedness levels of residents to floods. 

In his discussions with the officers present, Dr. Opadeyi remarked, “The benefits of the project is that it can greatly reduce loss when flooding impacts a community, and can lend tremendous aid to both agencies and citizens in responding quickly to and mitigating against risks, as well as performing damage assessments in a much quicker time. Additionally, outside of emergencies or disasters, planning agencies can utilise the hardware being provided in capturing field data, where high productivity is critical, especially in updating local GIS based networks”.

Dr. Opadeyi is expected to continue working with the DDM and TCP over the next few months to ensure completion of the project.