Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands: Relief and recovery, not the same

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Hazard Management Cayman Islands' Joint Communications Services
Relief and Recovery-Differences and Expectations
3:00 p.m. Sunday, 16 November 2008

At times, different words associated with hazard management can be used interchangeably or perhaps be misunderstood, so two key post-disaster terms are clarified below. They are particularly important since both can overlap:

Relief: Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) Director Dr Barbara Carby notes that relief refers to initial efforts to take care of affected areas. "The emphasis is on restoring access and ensuring that basic essential services such as medical facilities are functional, and that food, water and shelter are made available," she says.

Essential infrastructure restoration is a part of the relief (also called 'response') phase. Clearing even one lane, if not all, of a major road is one example. The restoration of emergency services and law and order are equally important.

Recovery: Referring to activities that restore communities to as good or better condition than pre-disaster, recovery follows on the heels of relief and should take into account any vulnerabilities exposed during the disaster. According to Dr Carby, vulnerable areas may include government, infrastructure, utilities, housing and businesses.

In short, the recovery focus falls on getting the community back onto its feet, but in such a way that it will be better-prepared to cope with another major crisis. That's why the recovery effort should be neither rushed nor sloppy.

Following a hurricane then, if flooding had damaged a public facility's main generator during a storm, the base-level should be raised afterwards or the generator relocated, to prevent a future repeat.

Whatever the situation, one question should always be asked during and after recovery: As we go forward, how can we incorporate the lessons we have learned, both at the government and the public level? (This may be referred to as mitigation-minimizing the effects of disaster-and to this end, efforts must constantly be made to enhance community education and awareness).

So as Dr Barbara Carby explains, "Lessons learned from Ivan and Katrina-even though that hurricane didn't directly affect the Cayman Islands-were taken on board during HMCI's seasonal preparations. And post-Paloma, our approach will continue to be adjusted, based on what has been newly learned."

In the aftermath of disaster, our expectations usually represent a positive area since we do generally understand what is being done in both the relief and recovery post-disaster phases. The agreement that communities do not wish to re-experience the impact of disaster is widespread and our residents tend to be receptive and ready to take protective steps, whether independently or collectively.

For further information contact: Wosila Rochester