Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project
Implemented by the Organization of American States
Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment
for the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Caribbean Regional Program


The Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP): Final Report

I. Program Description

The Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project has been a coordinated effort to promote the adoption of natural disaster mitigation and preparedness practices by both the public and private sectors in the Caribbean region through a series of activities carried out over the period September 1993-December 1999. The CDMP was funded by the Prevention, Mitigation & Preparedness Division of the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA/PMP), and managed initially by the USAID Regional Housing & Urban Development Office in the Caribbean (RHUDO/CAR) and later by the USAID/OFDA satellite office in Jamaica. The program was implemented by the Unit of Sustainable Development & Environment of the Organization of American States (OAS/USDE) together with national and regional partners.

During the course of the program, a web site was established to describe and document activities and to disseminate reports. Full information about the CDMP is available there at:

A. Program Objective

The overall objective of the CDMP was the adoption of disaster mitigation and preparedness techniques, technologies and practices by the public and private sectors in targeted communities in the Caribbean. The activities undertaken during the program period varied according to location, contents and implementation strategy, but all contributed to attainment of the overall CDMP goal: a more disaster-resistant environment for the people who live, work and invest in this hazard-prone region.

B. Strategy

The CDMP provided a framework for collaboration within the Caribbean region to establish sustainable public and private sector mechanisms for natural disaster mitigation that measurably lessen loss of life, reduce the potential for physical and economic damage, and shorten the disaster recovery period over the long term. Program activities were selected to contribute to achievement of the CDMP objective by:

  1. overcoming identified constraints to the adoption of preparedness and mitigation measures;
  2. introducing and promoting use of new or improved skills;
  3. strengthening institutional capacity for training and for managing information;
  4. documenting and disseminating lessons learned in pilot projects;
  5. supporting pilot activities that result in local ownership and exhibit good potential for local sustainability; and
  6. working in collaboration with organizations and regional networks that replicate the demonstration activities and promote continued use of mitigation skills, technologies and information.

C. Problem-Focused Planning Process

The program was designed to support specific pilot activities where problems and/or constraints to mitigation were identified and resources could be targeted to achieve results attributable to project inputs. The following problems/constraints were identified in pre-grant discussions and needs assessments carried out in the region:

Based on this analysis, six project outcomes were selected. They formed the basis for the anticipated CDMP activity streams and for the development of monitoring and evaluation indicators.

  1. Reduced vulnerability of basic infrastructure and critical facilities.
  2. Improved building standards and practices to reduce natural hazard vulnerability.
  3. Increased availability and access to natural hazard/disaster risk information for use by public and private sector developers, investors and insurers.
  4. Increased community awareness of and involvement in disaster preparedness and mitigation measures.
  5. Improved availability of insurance and reinsurance for natural hazard perils.
  6. Incorporation of mitigation activities in post-disaster reconstruction/recovery.

The tools/approaches selected to address the chosen issues also varied according to their applicability to the situation at hand. Generally they consisted of:

  • technical assistance
  • technology transfer
  • information exchange/dissemination
  • demonstrations
  • training
  • problem-focused studies
  • monitoring and evaluation
  • counterpart investments

The pilot activities were intended to yield easily replicable methods and mechanisms for widespread dissemination of mitigation and preparedness practices at local, national, regional and sectoral scales. Pilot projects were implemented in selected countries, while regional training, information dissemination workshops and technical meetings, the publication of reports, and other dissemination activities have ensured that the entire region will benefit from the results of these activities. Participants included local architects, engineers, bankers, builders, artisans, professional associations, insurance and reinsurance companies, finance institutions, governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, community groups, and local business people.

D. Monitoring and Evaluation

Given the widespread and diverse nature of the CDMP activities, it was important from the outset to develop a strong monitoring and evaluation component to provide regular data collection and analysis regarding both the process and the impact of these activities. A strategic objective framework was developed and logical frameworks drafted for each activity stream. A Program Performance Matrix formed the basis for regular reporting. In addition to ongoing monitoring and interim evaluations, a detailed final evaluation was undertaken by external consultants during the last year of the program.

II. Activity Streams

CDMP activities targeted six major themes: community-based preparedness, hazard assessment and mapping, hazard-resistant building practices, vulnerability and risk audits for lifeline facilities, promotion of hazard mitigation within the property insurance industry, and incorporation of hazard mitigation into post-disaster recovery. Descriptions of specific activities and regular progress updates were posted on the CDMP web site and are attached at the back of this summary to provide a more complete understanding of what has taken place during the program.

A. Natural Hazard Assessments and Risk Mapping: Activities in this area improved access to hazard information for the public, as well as developers, investors and insurers by enhancing the national and regional capacity to produce and use improved risk maps and assessments. The information will be used in many ways: to guide development and land use planning for public and private investment; to set appropriate building standards and practices; to designate high-risk areas for damage; to develop evacuation plans; to prepare critical infrastructure inventories; to prioritize mitigation investments; to pre-allocate relief and recovery resources; and to improve the hazard information base for insurers. A regional database of storm hazard information was produced, including information and maps of estimated maximum surge, wave heights and wind speeds for the entire Caribbean. Atlases of maps of maximum envelopes of water (MEOW) were produced for the Eastern Caribbean, and the Kingston Multi-Hazard Assessment pilot established a process for compiling separate hazard mapping activities into a comprehensive assessment and planning tool.

Coastal storm hazard assessments were carried out in Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica, and the Eastern Caribbean. A multi-hazard assessment (landslides, earthquakes and coastal storms) was undertaken in Jamaica.

B. Promotion of Hazard-Resistant Building Practices and Standards: The CDMP assisted countries to establish appropriate safer building standards and practices in the formal and informal sectors. To effect changes in the informal sector, the program promoted the knowledge and use of safer construction skills, supported institutional capacity building, broadened community access to credit for home improvements, and documented and disseminated pilot project experience nationally and regionally. In two pilot activities, small contractors and building artisans were trained in appropriate, low-cost safer building techniques to retrofit existing housing. This was linked to establishment of new micro-credit programs, which enabled low-income residents to invest in home improvements and retrofits for safety. Pilot activities took place in Dominica and St. Lucia, with replication in Antigua & Barbuda and in process for Grenada and St. Kitts.

On the national level, the CDMP supported the development or revision of building regulations/standards, based on the OECS model building code, that will impact future construction practices and result in reduced property losses from natural hazards. In addition to these codes and guidelines, studies were conducted of failed infrastructure and the costs and benefits of mitigation measures. Codes were written or upgraded in Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, Belize, and Grenada, and establishment of a Building Authority is in process in Barbados. Regionally, the CDMP supported a consultation on revision/completion needs of the CUBiC, and developed and tested a training course for building inspectors.

C. Vulnerability and Risk Audits for Loss Reduction in Lifelines and Critical Facilities: Successful performance of lifeline systems (electrical power and communications, water and sewage, transportation, gas and liquid fuels) and major economic sectors is vital for the prevention of severe human and financial losses due to the effects of natural hazards. The CDMP assisted participating institutions to conduct risk audits for electrical utilities and other infrastructure, and compiled the resulting information into a regional manual for conducting these audits. Pilot activities took place in Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Antigua & Barbuda.

The CDMP collaborated with the Caribbean Hotel Association to increase awareness and promote preparedness/mitigation activities for the tourism sector by contributing a chapter on structural safety to their Hurricane Procedures Manual and supporting initial workshops on mitigation and preparedness.

A School/Shelter Hazard Vulnerability Reduction Project in the Eastern Caribbean was jointly implemented with the OAS National Hazards Project (NHP) with funding support from ECHO. This project developed standards and estimated costs for retrofit and construction of new schools/shelters; reported to CDB on property surveys in participating countries; and disseminated a maintenance manual. Efforts were conducted within the broader context of school vulnerability reduction programs in Central and South America with collaborations among numerous organizations including Partners of the Americas, OAS-NHP, IDNDR, ECHO, Peace Corps and others. Survey activities took place in Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Kitts & Nevis.

D. Promotion of Loss Reduction Incentives and Hazard Mitigation in the Property Insurance Industry: The CDMP worked with the Caribbean insurance industry on various actions aimed at easing the property insurance crisis in the region. A number of these efforts were closely linked to the ongoing activities in hazard assessment and mapping, producing more reliable information that could be integrated in a risk-based premium structure. The CDMP supported national insurance associations in Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas in organizing technical conferences and in disseminating hazard and risk information. Papers were completed on determining probable maximum loss, failed infrastructure in the region, and loss scenarios for public infrastructure. A collaborative effort with the World Bank produced a major paper on catastrophe insurance, accepted by the CARICOM Heads of State. One Caribbean insurance company initiated a premium reduction program for structures meeting defined minimum standards.

E. Facilitation of Community-Based Disaster Preparedness and Prevention: Recognizing the vital role communities play in preparing for natural disasters and mitigating their effects, the CDMP supported pilot projects in the Dominican Republic and Haiti to establish community-based, sustainable disaster preparedness and prevention programs. In the Dominican Republic, the program successfully initiated the first private/NGO collaborative mechanism for disaster preparedness and mitigation. The Dominican Association for Disaster Mitigation (ADMD) has been legally constituted as an NGO with a Board of private and NGO representatives and has carried out activities in training, coordination and communication, community education, and information. It designed and continues to support a program with communities and local NGOs to identify and implement mitigation sub-projects ("Community Initiatives"). In Haiti, local municipal committees were established in three communities, disaster preparedness and management training were provided, vulnerability assessments were prepared, and links were established with development NGOs.

F. Incorporation of Hazard Mitigation into Post-disaster Recovery: While the preferred mode for providing technical assistance in disaster mitigation is to incorporate vulnerability reduction measures into all aspects of development plans and projects, often a disaster must strike before there exists sufficient political, institutional and technical interest in mitigating against future losses. For this purpose, the CDMP developed a Post-Disaster Mitigation Strategy, which enables disaster-affected OAS member states to have access to a wide pool of technical specialists to assist in the design of mitigation activities and their incorporation into reconstruction plans and projects. Most importantly, this effort capitalizes on the heightened interest and the financial and physical resources that become available during disaster recovery.

Among its post-disaster activities, the CDMP supported a landslide hazard assessment following Tropical Storm Debby in St. Lucia, safer construction training in Antigua & Barbuda following Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn, a storm hazard assessment and landslide dam assessment in Dominica after Luis and Marilyn, and institutional strengthening activities following Hurricane Georges in the Dominican Republic.

G. Training Programs: The success of the CDMP requires that disaster mitigation information and technical skills be accurately and effectively transmitted to project participants. Accordingly, each of the CDMP activities described above included, as appropriate, workshops, technology transfer and training sessions, the drafting and distribution of training manuals and other publications, and/or the establishment of public information campaigns, as essential components in their implementation.


A. Scope: Initially, pilot mitigation activities were planned for 7 countries in the Caribbean region; in the end, 16 countries were involved in demonstration projects and/or participated in information exchange workshops. Others not targeted by the program have taken an interest in various CDMP methodologies and have adapted them for their own use. For example, both the State of Florida and the Emergency Center in Campeche, Mexico, have used the TAOS model to assess potential storm surge heights and winds.

Almost all of the activities included a significant private sector component, not only with regard to participation and collaboration, but also investment and cost-sharing. Public-private-NGO partnerships were critical to both the conduct of program activities and its potential for sustainable achievements.

B. Non-USAID investments: All partners made significant counterpart contributions to the conduct of CDMP activities. Collaborations with CDERA, CIMH, CDB, CHA, CARILEC, UNCHS/UNDP, UWI and ECHO not only offered cost-sharing opportunities but also ensure continued access to and use of mitigation skills, technologies and information within the region. Local investment in CDMP activities was considered a key indicator of the value placed on the benefits of these activities (and thus of their continued use/sustainability). The program is particularly proud of the institutional and community contributions leveraged by the ADMD in the Dominican Republic.

C. Training and Curriculum Development: The CDMP has supported specific training of hundreds of people in disaster management, safer housing skills, hazard mapping and other skills, not including the thousands of adults and children reached in information dissemination and awareness workshops. The program collaborated with the USAID OFDA-sponsored disaster management training courses, supported design of training materials for safer housing techniques, sponsored locally-adapted tabletop exercises and seminars, and particularly focused on nurturing institutional capability to continue to offer this training in the future. Course materials developed and tested in the CDMP continue to be available through the relevant local and regional institutions, and much is accessible via the CDMP website.

The CDMP collaborated with other regional institutions such as CDERA and UWI to determine tertiary curriculum needs and opportunities for mitigation education. The UWI Unit for Disaster Studies continues to develop a course on Analysis & Management of Geohazards and Risks, to be offered in the summer of 2000. UTECH-Jamaica developed course outlines and prepared implementation plan for incorporation of safer construction and other mitigation modules to increase the awareness and skill level of professionals, tradespersons, supervisors and small business persons in the construction industry. Limited support was also provided to the Engineering faculty at UWI-St. Augustine for the initial offering of an undergraduate course on natural hazards.

D. Policy Changes: When the program began, mitigation and preparedness issues were not incorporated in a sustained way in the policies and procedures of the public and private sectors. In most countries, mitigation activities were only carried out in the aftermath of disasters or when funded within a project format. Although many were initially skeptical that significant policy change was possible during the life of the program, the CDMP can point to successes in this area as well. Disaster management/mitigation approaches were included in the National Land Policy revisions in Jamaica. The Caribbean Development Bank developed new Strategy and Operational Guidelines for Natural Disaster Management and has begun to put them into practice. For example, CDB has included mitigation considerations in a post-hurricane infrastructure rehabilitation loan for Dominica, provided an incentive in some housing loans to include strengthening retrofits, and made funds available in selected countries for low-income housing retrofit/training programs.

In a collaboration with the CDERA DERMS project, the CDMP brought together for the first time national disaster coordinators and national planners to explore ways of integrating hazard and vulnerability reduction information in the national development planning process. Several countries are now in the process of developing national mitigation policies.

During the project period, the World Bank established a loan and credit program for emergency recovery and disaster management in five OECS countries. This program reflects a recently expanded focus at the World Bank on disaster risk reduction. Included in the OECS loan program are several institutional strengthening activities that were piloted under the CDMP.

E. Documentation and dissemination of program mitigation methodologies and applications: As program activities began to accomplish their objectives, documentation proceeded apace. Procedural manuals, videos, training curricula, studies, and promotional materials were produced. Many were drafted, presented and discussed in workshops, then modified to reflect broader experience and new approaches. Information emanating from pilot project activities was used to revise or expand training course content. Numerous presentations of various aspects of the CDMP were made in regional and international fora. A list of CDMP publications is attached.

As part of their activities, several of the pilot projects also included important information exchange/dissemination components. During the life of the project, the "information" element of the community-based activities in the Dominican Republic, for example, reached approximately 29,885 people nationwide in 458 presentations to raise awareness of natural hazards and disaster mitigation. In addition, the national media contributed more than 2,278 minutes of TV time, 5,064 minutes of radio time, and 41 articles, to promote hazard awareness, mitigation and preparedness—worth almost an estimated US$1.5 million, if costed at commercial rates.

To expand and expedite the dissemination of CDMP materials, many project documents were posted on the CDMP web site where people throughout the region and indeed throughout the world have instant access. Copies of some documents were downloaded specifically for national mitigation planners in the USAID/ADPC Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Program who did not have easy access to the Internet. At the end of the project, a CD was made of the CDMP web site materials for widespread distribution, to further promote use and adaptation of the CDMP experiences and studies.

F. Effectiveness: In the final analysis, the effectiveness of many vulnerability reduction activities can only be assessed in the context of a subsequent natural disaster. Because the CDMP had activities on the ground, tropical storms (e.g. Tropical Storm Debby, Hurricanes Iris, Luis and Marilyn in 1995, and more recently Hurricane Georges) not only provided opportunities to integrate mitigation into the immediate reconstruction planning period, but also to test approaches underway in the CDMP.

In surveys and site visits, the CDMP documented wherever possible the impact of its activities on performance during and after the storms. Examples include:


The strategy of ensuring that the program operated within the context of a longer-term vision was pursued from the very beginning of the CDMP. First, a monitoring and evaluation plan with long-term indicators was developed to determine, during the program period, the likelihood that its activities would continue to be used and useful within the region after the program ended. Second, a criterion for selection of national and regional partners was that they be likely institutions to carry the work forward. Third, grants to partners in pilot projects attempted to support current staff to the greatest extent possible, so that new or improved capabilities would not be lost once funding ceased at the end of the project. Fourth, where incremental funding was used over a period of time (e.g., the Dominican Republic), the support available from the CDMP was reduced in subsequent grants to encourage efforts toward self-sufficiency. Fifth, the CDMP provided advice and assistance in designing strategies for sustainability. At the midpoint in the program, a specific sustainability strategy was vetted with the Technical Advisory Committee to articulate and clarify needed actions for the remainder of the program period.

During the conduct of the program, the following were used as general indicators of potential sustainability: continued use by collaborating partners, and replication/adaptation elsewhere; local national and external investment leveraged in support of program objectives; and effectiveness.

Over the long term, the program wanted to effect institutional changes, policy/regulatory changes and behavioral changes, all of which take time and consistent commitment, and must be embraced by the institutions and individuals involved. The CDMP has achieved a number of advances in the targeted areas and has stimulated a great deal of thought and discussion that should bear fruit. However, progress is contingent on governments, private organizations, investors, insurers and communities continuing to use and adapt mitigation and preparedness practices. Some activities where a major step forward has been made in terms of sustainability are:


A. Changes that work usually take time to be assimilated and be demonstrated in behavior, whether individual or institutional. The program benefited tremendously from the amount of time committed to it (5 years in the initial grant with a one year extension). This facilitated the overall effectiveness of program activities by allowing for changes to be made during the course of a pilot project, allowing local and regional demand to "lead" the program in several new directions, and allowing attention to be given to follow-up initiatives that were not anticipated in the original program planning.

B. The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which functioned throughout the program period, made a major contribution to program implementation. The TAC included representatives not only from the supporting, managing and implementing organizations but also from several regional stakeholders. While it took time for the group to coalesce, the often energetic discussions held at the annual TAC meetings (and, when appropriate, via e-mail) became invaluable in providing different perspectives, considering the viability of approaches, and reviewing annual work plans.

C. Mitigation is most effective when a variety of strategies are adopted. One of the early criticisms of the CDMP was that it seemed to be taking a "scattered" approach to the design of pilot activities. As the program entered its final 18 months, however, it was apparent that cross-fertilization was taking place among the various activity streams and that the CDMP was becoming viewed in the region as a consistent mitigation voice rather than simply the instigator of discrete pilot projects. The program attempted to take a balanced approach in the selection of activities, but more importantly to be broadly inclusive, drawing in multiple partners and institutions to begin the process of building a permanent mitigation constituency in the region and in each country. The length of the program period allowed for some trial-and-error in this regard, and for feedback to inform improved approaches.

D. Training alone does not guarantee that mitigation actions will be taken. This lesson was learned early in the project, enabling improved approaches in subsequent activities in housing, community-based initiatives, policy changes, et al. It is critical to recognize the role of advocacy in building demand and facilitating decision-making on mitigation issues. More effort needs to be placed on persuasion, selling, dealing with issues of cost and benefit in a non-academic manner. The most successful pilot projects had dynamic, committed leaders or "champions."

E. It is important not to rely solely on the provision of a new or improved technology as the answer, even if it builds on what is already there. Frequently, people do not make the jump to understanding how it can be used in their public and private lives. The CDMP learned early in the hazard assessment and mapping activities that integration of the technical data into the development process was a critical area to emphasize. Numerous workshops and meetings were subsequently scheduled in various pilot activities to ensure that a broad range of stakeholders was reached, and to provide assistance in identifying areas where the new or revised information could be applied to produce benefit streams in the future.

F. Governments and staff change. The CDMP gave much thought to the meaning of "institutionalize," particularly in its articulation of a sustainability strategy at the approximate mid-point of the project. While continuation of the CDMP-supported activities will not be verifiable for several years, the program identified indicators of sustainability in the development of its monitoring and evaluation plan and looked beyond the establishment of a policy, for example, to determine instances of the policy being carried out. In some training courses, efforts were made to track individual use of the information conveyed; the program was not fully successful in tracking this use outside of project activities, but believes that this is an important area to emphasize.

G. To a large degree, investment decisions determine the level of vulnerability. A major challenge for the region is the broadening of the coalescing mitigation constituency to include economic planners and others who shape public and private financial decisions.

Appendix 1: Acronyms and Abbreviations

ADMD Dominican Association for Disaster Mitigation, (Dominican Republic)
APUA Antigua Public Utilities Authority (Antigua)
BVI British Virgin Islands
CARILEC Caribbean Electrical Utilities Services Corp.
CARICOM Caribbean Community
CCC Caribbean Conference of Churches
CDB Caribbean Development Bank
CDERA Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency
CDMP Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project
CEP Consulting Engineers Partnership
CHA/CTO Caribbean Hotel Association/Caribbean Tourism Organization
CHF Cooperative Housing Foundation
CIMH Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology (formerly Caribbean Meteorological Institute - CMI)
CMGD Comite de Mitigation et de Gestion des Desastres
CRP Caribbean Regional Program, USAID (Jamaica)
CRS Catholic Relief Services
CUBiC Caribbean Uniform Building Code
DERMS Disaster Emergency Response Management Systems Project, CDERA
DIPECHO Disaster Preparedness Program of ECHO
DOMLEC Dominica Electricity Services Ltd.
ECHO European Community Humanitarian Office
GIS Geographic information system
IAC Insurance Association of the Caribbean
IDNDR International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction
JIE Jamaican Institution of Engineers
KMA Kingston Multi-Hazard Assessment, CDMP (Jamaica)
LUCELEC St. Lucia Electricity Services Ltd.
MEOW Maximum envelopes of water
NDF National Development Foundation
NDFD National Development Foundation of Dominica
NHP Natural Hazards Project, OAS
NOAA National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (U.S.)
NRCA Natural Resources Conservation Authority (Jamaica)
NRDF National Research & Development Foundation (St. Lucia)
OAS Organization of American States
ODA Overseas Development Administration (U.K.)
ODP or ODPEM Office of Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management (Jamaica)
OECS Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
OFDA Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, USAID
ORINCO Organization of Insurance Companies in Belize
PADF Pan American Development Foundation
PCDPPP Pan-Caribbean Disaster Preparedness & Prevention Project
PML Probable maximum loss
SALCC Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (St. Lucia)
SRU Seismic Research Unit, Univ. of the West Indies
SSI Safe Shelter Initiative (Dominica)
TAOS "The Arbiter of Storms"; TAOS/L refers to the Caribbean version
TFI Training for instructors
UMCOR United Methodist Committee for Relief
UNCHS U.N. Center for Human Settlements
UNDP U.N. Development Program
UNI United Insurance Company Ltd. (Barbados)
USDE Unit of Sustainable Development & Environment, OAS
UTECH University of Technology (Jamaica)
UWI University of the West Indies
VINLEC St. Vincent Electricity Services
WFP World Food Program

Appendix 2: Chart of Participating Countries and Their Activities

Detailed descriptions of these activities are available on the Progress Bulletin Index Page (listed by country).

Appendix 3: List of CDMP publications and presentations

See the Papers and Publications Page of the CDMP web site.

CDMP home page: Project Contacts Page Last Updated: 20 April 2001