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


CDMP Natural Hazard Mapping Resources Page

Countries in the Caribbean are subject to a multitude of regularly recurring hazards, including hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and flash flooding. Although little can be done to eliminate most of these hazards, it is possible to reduce or eliminate their destructive effects on people and development through the application of appropriate hazard mitigation measures. To select measures that reduce the long-term vulnerability to natural hazards, it is critical to understand the characteristics of the hazard (e.g. magnitude and frequency of occurrence of the hazard) and to identify locations that are at high risk to their effects. Hazard assessments and hazard mapping activities have been carried out throughout the Caribbean. Rarely, either in the Caribbean or elsewhere, is information about multiple hazards combined to support integrated, multi-hazard assessment and mitigation efforts.

The USAID/OAS Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP) has supported hazard assessments throughout the region, including assessments of storm surge, destructive wind, seismic, and landslide hazards. These assessments have covered a broad range of scales, from region-wide hazard maps to site specific studies. Since the goal of the CDMP is to reduce the long-term vulnerability of the region to natural hazards, integration of these hazard assessments into local development planning has been a significant component of many of these projects. Regional institutions, such as the Caribbean Meteorological Institute, the Seismic Research Unit and faculties of the University of the West Indies, also have developed critical expertise in hazard assessment and mapping. Building on this experience, the Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project organized a Hazard Mapping Workshop for Caribbean Physical Planners, which was held in Grenada, June 2-5, 1999. The document Use of Storm Hazard Mapping in Development Planning describes the use of hazard information to guide development decisionmaking, using storm hazard information as a case study.

The Organization of American States has also produced two useful publications describing hazard mapping, vulnerability assessment and the incorporation of this information into the development planning process. These documents are available on the OAS web site at

Hazard Mapping

Valuable information on individual natural hazards in a study area may appear on maps with varying scales, coverage, and detail. Information from several of them can be combined in a single map to give a composite picture of the magnitude, frequency, and area of effect of all the natural hazards. By facilitating the interpretation of hazard information, it increases the likelihood that the information will be used in the decision-making process - either in the planning of new development projects or the incorporation of hazard reduction techniques into existing developments.  Hazard maps already exist in the Caribbean—see the matrix of existing hazard maps for the region, which was developed at the Grenada workshop. More information sharing is needed, however, between professionals throughout the region who are working to reduce hazard vulnerability, through emergency preparedness, planning, investment or scientific research.

Strategies for Specific Hazards

How do planners incorporate natural hazards into an integrated study for the development of an area? First they must determine which hazards, if any, pose a serious threat. Next, they must prepare an assessment of any threatening hazards. General overviews of the natural hazards affecting the region were developed for the CDMP Hazard Mapping and Vulnerability Assessment workshop:

Information from the analysis of an area's hazards and its vulnerability to them is integrated in an analysis of risk, which is an estimate of the probability of expected loss for a given hazardous event.  Once risks are assessed, planners have the basis for incorporating mitigation measures into the design of investment projects and for comparing project versus no-project costs and benefits.

Further Information

Geographic Information Systems can be an important tool in hazard and vulnerability assessment. One of the constraints to the broader application of GIS within the region is the variety of systems in use, both within and between countries, as exchanging data between different systems can be a difficult task. To address this issue in Dominica, the CDMP prepared a workshop and manual on Exchanging Information Between the SPANS and IDRISI GIS Programs.

Significant resources exist to support hazard mapping in the Caribbean. A selected bibliography of useful materials was compiled for the Hazard Mapping and Vulnerability Assessment Workshop. The Caribbean is also home to a host of hazard experts and agencies who have had long experience with studying, responding to and addressing the problems associated with natural hazards. A selected list of these people and organizations is provided below.

Hazard Organizations Individuals
Earthquakes and Seismic Hazards Seismic Research Unit (SRU)
University of the West Indies
St. Augustine, Trinidad
Tel: (868) 662-4659 | Fax: (868) 663-9293

Earthquake Unit
University of the West Indies
Mona, Jamaica

National Disaster Offices

Lloyd Lynch, SRU

John Shepherd, SRU

Flood Hazards Ministry of Works
Water Resources Agency
National Disaster Offices
Landslide Hazards National Disaster Offices Dr. Cassandra Rogers
Dept. of Civil Engineering
University of the West Indies
St. Augustine, Trinidad
Tel: (868) 645-3232 x3440 | Fax: (868) 645-7691

Rafi Ahmad
Department of Geography and Geology
University of the West Indies
Mona, Jamaica
Tel: (876) 927-2728 | Fax: (876) 977-6029

Volcanic Hazards Seismic Research Unit (SRU)
University of the West Indies
St. Augustine, Trinidad
Tel: (868) 662-4659 | Fax: (868) 663-9293
Richard Robertson, SRU

Dr. John Shepherd, SRU


CDMP home page: Project Contacts

Page Last Updated: 20 April 2001