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Experts St. Maarten, Saba, Statia attend disaster risk management workshop

On March 1 and 2, 2023, experts on disaster risk management from St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba came together on Sint Maarten to discuss the far-reaching and long-lasting consequences of disasters such as Hurricane Irma and the COVID-19 pandemic in the Caribbean.

The meeting was organised by the Netherlands Red Cross, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Service KNMI and the University of Twente, and is part of the European Union (EU) funded project PARATUS to promote disaster preparedness and resilience by co-developing stakeholder support tools for managing the systemic risk of compounding disasters.

The experts from St. Maarten, Statia and Saba and covered different sectors such as emergency response, healthcare and telecom. Participants from other parts of the world contributed to the workshop through a video call. Similar workshops will be held in Austria (multi-hazards and disasters in the Alps), Rumania (Floods and Earthquakes) and Turkey (multi-hazards and disasters in the mega-city of Istanbul).

During the workshop, the participants discussed the urgency of considering climate extremes in complex decision-making. In order to be prepared for the future, it is important to learn from the past. “We need to have a better understanding of how the consequences of disasters trickle down through society and how this evolves through time; the so-called impact chains,” the workshop organizers said.

The saying ‘The past is the key to the future’, doesn’t apply when the future is much more extreme than the recent past. It is therefore important to model possible multi-hazard impacts with a special focus on uncertainties. The challenge is not only to quantify those uncertainties but also to report them in a way that is meaningful for those that need to take decisions whether this is before the disaster (preparedness) or after (response).

The aim of the PARATUS project is to develop a service to support decision-making that can be modified and applied to a specific location and local circumstances. For non-scientists, climate information is often abstract and does not necessarily respond to their needs. This service should help them to better understand how different climate scenarios, combined with land use, socio-demographic and economic trends, will have an impact on society.

Adapting to changes requires assessing multiple hazards (hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics) and requires the co-development of scenarios for specific sectors in society. Risk mitigation options can then be explored that have the largest effect in these impact chains, for example using simulations or serious games.

With this workshop on St. Maarten, the experts have taken the first step on a long journey towards a future where we can make better ‘risk-informed’ decisions to reduce the number of people affected by disasters and to create a more resilient society.

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