February 28, 20111144Views

Monday, February 28 The Virgin Islands has been selected as a beneficiary member state to receive the results of a Geographical Information Systems (GIS-based) Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) Project.

As part of the regional Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Strategy and Framework 2007 – 2012, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is currently implementing major Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) initiatives aimed at reducing the vulnerability of its Participating States to hazard impacts. In this regard, a two day GIS-based Flood Early Warning System Workshop is being held at the DDM conference room. This workshop is geared towards developing and testing the operational Flood Early Warning Systems Protocol and to demonstrate the uses of GIS in enhancing field operations during the planning and management of flood evacuation.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Seon Levius, ICT Specialist Manager at CDEMA, spoke about building capacity among CDEMA Participating States. He said, “This workshop seeks to strengthen management practices involving both natural and technological hazards, but specifically to flood hazards. The workshop also provides a chance to revisit our disaster risk management strategies.” He added, “Equally important is the opportunity for us to share best practices and lessons learnt from across a spectrum of projects, programs and policies.”

Workshop facilitator Dr. Jacob Opadeyi, the consultant contracted by CDEMA to facilitate the implementation of the Project, is the Head and Professor of Geometrics Engineering and Land Management at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. He is accompanied by Ms. Gabrielle Thongs and Ms. Rehanna Jadoo, also from UWI. Dr. Opadeyi said, “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 utilize the hardware being provided in capturing field data, where high productivity is critical, especially in updating local GIS-based networks”.

Dr. Opadeyi also discussed the main criteria for selection of pilot states, which were based on a country both having and being willing to share data across organisations. “The Virgin Islands came first. VI has a culture of sharing data that has allowed for further advancement in development and Comprehensive Disaster Management,” he said.

At the beginning of the workshop, presentations were made to the Town and Country Planning Department (TCP) and the DDM. Each department received a Mobile ArcPad Computer with accompanying software which will incorporate a platform to receive, capture and store high sensitivity GPS data in difficult environments and a JUNO handheld system which is a GPS receiver for field data collection.

Mr. Linton Leonard, Information and Education Manager at the DDM said, “This project is timely and very important, in light of the severity of the impacts of the 2010 Flash Flood events. The flood maps generated through this project will include evacuation routes, in keeping with the newly established GIS-based Flood Contingency Protocol.”

Dr. Opadeyi and his team are scheduled to work with the DDM and TCP over the next few weeks to complete the project. This project is being implemented through CDEMA, with funding from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).