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Preparing for the hurricane season: “It’s going to be different this time.”

Preparing for the hurricane season: “It’s going to be different this time.”

DOMINICA, 14 May 2018 - The Caribbean hurricane season is fast approaching and schools in Dominica, devastated by Category 5 Hurricane Maria in September last year, are gearing up to be ready. Partners are lending help and support: the European Commission has provided UNICEF, working with the Government of Dominica and IsraAID, with 500,000 euros to support the education sector across all 73 schools. This includes desks and materials and tooling teachers to train students in disaster risk management.

Up and down the country’s students have begun developing preparedness plans as part of a safe schools programme. For Melena Fontaine, Dominica’s Chief Education Officer, this move comes not a moment too soon.

“The activity that we’re engaged in is very, very important. Because of all the loss after Maria we know we have to be better prepared.” She adds, “Our top priority is to ensure that all our schools have a basic school emergency operation plan that our children, principals, teachers and ancillary staff understand, so that whatever hazard comes our way we know what it is we must do to safeguard life and property.”

Since the first week in May, students from Community High School in Roseau have been working on their plan; mapping their school compound, noting hazards and vulnerability, as well as assessing capacity, using 3D brick models among other tools. The process will take 8.5 hours in total. Sheranda Robinson, 15, feels that it is developing her creativity and reinforcing the importance of communicating effectively with her peers. She also recognises how vital it is.

“If there’s a disaster we would know what to do, we would know our environment, what’s where and what you can use as a shelter during the storm or whatever. I feel better prepared this time. I’m a bit scared about the hurricane season coming but at the end of the day we just have to stay prepared,” Sheranda says.

Ahijah Williams, 15, goes to North East Comprehensive School in Wesley and is also apprehensive about the hurricane season, describing himself as “terrified”. Helping to develop the disaster preparedness plan is reassuring him, though. “I would like to be more ready this time: prepare for the season, stock up on food, repair houses. We haven’t really gone deep into this training yet but I am looking forward to learning safe practices. It’s going to be different this time.”



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