Haiti: Developing emergency evacuation plans for community infrastructures

Cooperazione Internazionale

By Lara Palmisano (@larapalmisano)

Despite its high vulnerability to disasters, emergency and evacuation plans are not mandatory in Haiti. To address this problem, International NGOs COOPI and GOAL are working to ensure the development and utilization of emergency and evacuation plans for community infrastructures to improve preparedness in case of a disaster.

This initiative is part of the programme “Strengthening capacity to prepare, mitigate, and respond to disasters in vulnerable urban communities” funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). The project also works in collaboration with AGERCA, a network of Haitian businesses that focuses on engaging private companies in activities of disaster risk reduction (DRR).

The main objective is to institutionalize emergency and evacuation plans and render them compulsory in order to protect the greatest number of people possible when emergency strikes. To this end, COOPI, GOAL, and AGERCA work in collaboration with Haitian authorities, including the Department of Civil Protection.

"Every infrastructure has its own specific characteristics and problems that depend upon various factors, such as the type of building (whether it’s a hotel, church, school, factory, etc.), the number of people to evacuate, and whether there are special risks (chemicals, fuels, etc.). It is therefore necessary to think on its specificity in order to find the best solutions for the evacuation,” says Benoit Gladymir, COOPI’s Engineer for the project.

Most of the buildings in Haiti do not have blueprints. Engineers for the project, such a Gladymir, create a building plan, they identify risk areas and additional equipment for emergency (such as alarm buttons, emergency preparedness kits, fire extinguishers, etc.). The emergency plans, once developed, are then prominently and visibly posted in strategic places throughout the building. Members of the development community, including ECHO and NGOs Better Work and Oxfam and private companies such as BRANA S.A. and Enmarcolda have already benefited from the project.

In addition to emergency and evacuation plans, evacuation drills are also key elements of emergency preparedness. Each public space, be it a private business, church, school, etc. has a responsibility to complete at least two evacuation drills per year. These drills are done in collaboration with supporting agencies, such as the Haitian Red Cross, the police, AGERCA, and the Department of Civil Protection, and are designed to test and assure the knowledge and understanding of emergency and evacuation procedures.

As stated by Benoit, “The implementation of emergency and evacuation plans offer many benefits to the whole of Haitian society as they help created a safer environment for both employees and customers. In addition, achieving international standards in emergency preparedness also strengthens the institution’s legitimacy.”

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