Barbados' EW4ALL national consultative workshop: embracing year-round Early Warning Systems

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean World Meteorological Organization (WMO) International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) International Telecommunication Union
Barbados' EW4ALL National Consultative Workshop:  Embracing Year-Round Early Warning Systems

The resounding assertion that "Early Warning Systems Are Not Seasonal" reverberated throughout the Barbados National Consultative Workshop, conducted by the United Nations EW4ALL Pillar leaders in collaboration with the Department of Emergency Management. This significant gathering took place from November 1 to 2, 2023, at the prestigious Hilton Barbados Resort. This declaration underscores the critical notion that early warning systems should be a continuous, year-round endeavor, rather than a reactive measure exclusively triggered by impending threats. Such systems must be primed to deliver timely, precise information and alerts at any given moment, transcending the confines of conventional hurricane seasons. They must also be multi-hazard, addressing a broad spectrum of potential threats, including hurricanes, tropical storms, tsunamis, earthquakes, and public health emergencies.

During the inaugural ceremony of this workshop, attended by a diverse assemblage of participants representing national, regional, and international agencies, the Honourable Wilfred Abrahams, Minister of Home Affairs and Information, lauded and acknowledged the commendable strides made by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) in steering the development of the Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems (MHEWS) Policy for Barbados. Although still in draft form, this policy aspires to encompass the pillars of MHEWS: Risk Information and Knowledge, Detection, Observation, Forecasting and Monitoring, Communication and Warning, and Preparedness and Response. This noteworthy achievement underscores the government's unwavering commitment to fortify the nation's resilience in the face of diverse hazards.

Barbados has recently formalized nine Memorandums of Understanding with major broadcasting networks, which collectively represent eighteen radio stations. This collaborative effort with the government is designed to facilitate mass communication and program interruptions during hazardous events, ensuring the timely dissemination of critical information.

Building upon the foundation laid by the existing MHEWS Gap Analysis Report, Roadmap, and Action Plan developed for Barbados in 2022, this workshop provided an opportunity for participants to delve deeper into a globally endorsed checklist concerning the MHEWS Pillars. Its aim was to identify gaps specific to hazards and to chart actions that could further the realization of the roadmap's objectives. At the culmination of this two-day workshop, several pivotal points emerged to ensure that Barbados is well-prepared with an effective MHEWS.

Strengthened Governance and Institutional Framework: The institutional framework for MHEWS in Barbados involves a collaborative synergy among various government agencies and organizations, collectively dedicated to ensuring the nation's readiness to respond to diverse hazards. The Department of Emergency Management assumes a central role in coordinating MHEWS-related efforts. Furthermore, the Barbados Meteorological Services, the Coastal Zone Management Unit, and other pertinent entities join forces to supply timely and precise information regarding potential hazards. As a significant step forward, it was underscored that the MHEWS policy should transition to a cabinet-approved national policy.

Enhanced Focus on Risk Information: This workshop shone a spotlight on the fragmented manner in which many agencies collect data in isolation. It underscored the necessity for a more robust data platform that harmonizes all risk data concerning the island's exposed hazards. Such integration guarantees that all relevant agencies and authorities have access to a unified information platform. Through shared data and resources, agencies can make informed decisions in a coordinated manner, a vital component during emergency situations. This harmonization reduces the potential for conflicting information and streamlines the response to hazards, thus ultimately enhancing the safety of Barbados' residents.

Ensuring Sustainable MHEWS: Sustainability for MHEWS in Barbados demands adequate resources, including budgetary allocations for the maintenance and enhancement of equipment, technology, and personnel training. Partnerships with international organizations and donors play a pivotal role in providing the requisite funding and resources to bolster the development of MHEWS.

Furthermore, the workshop underscored that for MHEWS to be efficacious in Barbados, a comprehensive, all-encompassing approach must be adopted to ensure that warnings and alerts are communicated in a universally understandable manner.

Barbados' steadfast commitment to advancing its Early Warning Systems, coupled with the recognition that early warnings are not confined to specific seasons, and the cultivation of collaboration and partnerships, represents a monumental stride towards fortifying the safety and resilience of its communities. The outcomes of the EW4ALL National Consultative Workshop underscore the paramount significance of year-round preparedness and the collective exertion necessary to safeguard lives and property in the face of multifarious hazards.

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