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 Natural Hazards Project component was financed by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO)
OAS-ECHO School Vulnerability Reduction Program


CDMP Progress Bulletin

School/Shelter Hazard Vulnerability Reduction in the Eastern Caribbean

Bulletin Date: December 1999

Countries in the Eastern Caribbean are subject to a multitude of natural hazards, including floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides and volcanoes. Availability of adequate and safe shelters during or after hazardous events can limit the loss of life and injury resulting from those events. In designating shelters for protection from natural hazards, it is critical that the selected buildings be located away from high-hazard areas and able to withstand the stresses placed upon them by high winds, rain, water and ground shaking. The Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP) and the Natural Hazards Project (NHP) of the Organization of American States have been working jointly since September 1997 to strengthen the network of emergency shelters and school buildings, which are often used as emergency shelters. The countries involved in this project include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and St. Kitts & Nevis. (See photos of selected schools from these countries.)

This project contains two primary components: a survey of currently designated shelters and training for the education sector in hazard mitigation for schools.

Shelter Survey

The shelter survey is composed of three stages. A preliminary assessment and screening of 86 properties (20 per country, 6 in Anguilla) was conducted by local engineers to classify the properties with respect to their retrofit needs. Standards for retrofitting these structures, and for constructing new schools and shelters, are currently being developed to guide the retrofit work and future construction. Based on the screening and the retrofit guidelines, global estimates of retrofitting costs for each of the classes of properties will be developed.

To support the preliminary screening, CDMP/NHP prepared a survey form to be used by local engineers in assessing the selected properties. This form has three parts: seismic hazard survey part I, seismic hazard survey part II and a wind hazard survey. Local engineers were trained in the application of this form. This survey addresses both wind and earthquake resistance. Based on the completed survey forms and follow-up site visits, CDMP/NHP will develop terms of reference for engineering work required to retrofit these buildings to a hazard-resistant state. The actual retrofit work will be financed with loan funding from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as a follow-up activity to this project.

Final products of this project component include:


Recognizing that the majority of the properties identified in the survey component of the project were schools, the CDMP joined forces with NHP and implemented a school vulnerability reduction campaign in countries affected by Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Kitts. As part of this effort, two series of national workshops were held in Antigua, Dominica and St. Kitts in January and March of 1998 for organizations and individuals involved in school building design, construction, reconstruction, retrofitting, and maintenance. Participants included officials from government ministries, non-governmental organizations, community organizations, private sector engineers/architects and volunteer groups.

The workshops focused on those aspects of the planning process relating to natural hazard vulnerability and risk mitigation, especially in the pre-feasibility stages. The workshops served as a forum to discuss and draft policies to reduce vulnerability as well as look at preparedness and emergency response activities. These workshops were instrumental in helping the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis to design national school vulnerability reduction plans. These national plans are to be presented before the respective cabinets for approval and adoption.

In the Eastern Caribbean, school building maintenance is critical to ensuring that hazard-resistant buildings remain safe. For this reason, the OAS developed a school building maintenance manual for use in the Caribbean. The manual is intended for use by non-technical school personnel such as school principals and teachers. Country specific maintenance manuals were developed for Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Kitts & Nevis.

Regional Workshop

A regional workshop was held October 14-15, 1998, in Basseterre, St. Kitts to review the findings of the engineering study mentioned above and to discuss school/shelter maintenance and the role of the community. Additional discussion focused on CDB loan financing for the retrofit work recommended. The themes of the workshop were quite timely since Hurricane Georges had recently passed through the Caribbean and left a mark on the schools and shelters in St. Kitts & Nevis as well as in Antigua and Barbuda. Representatives from the Ministries of Education, Public Works, and the Disaster Preparedness Offices from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and Trinidad as well as representatives from CDB, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), Partners of the Americas, and the US Peace Corps were in attendance. (See workshop participant list.)

Workshop Objectives

Key Points

Basseterre Junior High School, Post-hurricane Georges

Edgar T. Morris Primary School (St. Kitts), Post-hurricane Georges

Site visits to school/shelter buildings damaged by Hurricane Georges were the highlight of the workshop. Unfortunately, it was evident that reconstruction was taking place without consideration or adherence to recommended building codes or standards. For example, when asked why metal sheeting of an insufficient weight was being put on roofs, the response was that only that particular grade was being imported. Repairs to the school buildings could not be put on hold until proper materials were secured, services needed to be restored quickly. It was said that these repairs were only temporary. When asked what "temporary" meant, it was said jokingly, at least until the next hurricane.

Final Products

The Next Steps

The consensus of the workshop was that the cycle of "quick fixes" after a disaster must be broken. The five countries involved in the project agreed to seek loan funding from the CDB to finance systematic retrofitting and improved maintenance of schools and other public buildings used as shelters in disasters.

The CDB for its part offered to assign a consultant to work with each country on the preparation of a detailed loan request, once the countries submit formal applications for loans. With resources from the Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project and in collaboration with other donor agencies, the OAS will continue to support the participant countries in their efforts to introduce national school vulnerability reduction programs and in obtaining financing for the implementation of school/shelter vulnerability reduction.

For additional information on vulnerability reduction in the education sector, see the School/Shelter Hazard Vulnerability Reduction Resource Page.

The Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP) is a coordinated effort to promote the adoption of natural hazard mitigation and preparedness practices by both the public and private sectors in the Caribbean region. The CDMP is funded by the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and implemented by the Organization of American States/Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment (OAS/USDE) for the Caribbean Regional Program (USAID/CRP).

The NHP, with financial support from ECHO, is providing technical assistance to help prepare disaster reduction programs to protect school infrastructure through technical assistance, training, technology transfer and by supporting the formulation of policy and strategic action plans for the education sector.

CDMP home page: Project Contacts

Page Last Updated: 20 April 2001