In a region still reeling from the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane season, the most active and destructive in history, United Nations disaster experts and partners meeting in the Caribbean have issued a roadmap on how to use information and communication technologies to improve search-and-rescue missions, medical care and emergency relief.
The roadmap, adopted after a Forum in Jamaica organized by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization (CTO), covers a wide range of issues including appropriate policies and common regional strategies aimed at mitigating the effects of disasters.
“A number of initiatives are already off the ground,” said Cosmas Zavazava, Head of the ITU’s unit for Least Development Countries, Small Island Developing States and Emergency Telecommunications. “One of the key elements relates to the promotion of ‘emergency telecommunications readiness’ rather than to response and relief.”
In 2005, a record number of 27 storms and as many as 13 hurricanes pounded the vulnerable Caribbean coastline. These included Hurricane Wilma, the most intense in recorded history, and Katrina, the most destructive which caused an estimated $50 billion in insured damage.
Access to information is of paramount importance in the immediate aftermath of a disaster for relief agencies to coordinate search-and-rescue, medical intervention and rehabilitation efforts, the ITU said in a press release. There is an urgent need to establish effective and comprehensive communication links between the affected area, national disaster response facilities, and with the larger international community.
“Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are the key to saving lives and property because they enable the collection and timely dissemination of accurate information on acts of nature,” said J. Paul Morgan, Chairman of the CTO, an international development partnership between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth Governments, business and other organizations.