Shine Light on an ADN’s Project: Regional Network for First Responders (RN4FR)
By: Nibedita S. Ray-Bennett and Steve Glovinsky
A region as diverse and vulnerable as the Caribbean requires a continually vigilant, collaborative and coordinated approach to major disaster events. To address these complexities the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), established by CARICOM to coordinate cross-border disaster management efforts of its constituent states, applies the principles and practice of Comprehensive Disaster Management, acknowledging the need for an anticipatory approach to disaster management, viewing hazard exposure as an ongoing process of reducing vulnerability across all sectors.
The goal of the current Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy for the region, 2014-2024, is to achieve the vision of a disaster-resilient and sustainable Caribbean. CDEMA is responsible for operationalising the Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy, working through its Participating States. When an affected state’s capacity to address a disaster event is overwhelmed, the Regional Response Mechanism is activated and guided by the CDEMA Coordinating Unit and works through the National Disaster Offices. CDEMA’s responsibility for coordinating the Comprehensive Disaster Management strategy and the Regional Response Mechanism can be complex and challenging, given the involvement of so many organisational entities, the large number of professionals they represent, and their mix of international, regional and national jurisdictions. Alleviating this challenge would go far in improving the ability of the Regional Response Mechanism, and CDEMA in general, to achieve the vision of a disaster-resilient and sustainable Caribbean.
To examine this issue a virtual symposium, ‘Integrating Disaster Risk Management with Emergency Services and Defence to Reduce Avoidable Disaster Deaths’ was convened by the Avoidable Deaths Network (ADN) on 10 December 2021. Among the items covered, one item stood out: the need for improving communication, coordination and collaboration (the “3C’s”) between the actors providing the first line of response in disaster situations – community volunteers, humanitarian organisations, emergency services, and defence agencies – and with critical support partners from governments, disaster coordination organisations, donor agencies, and private sector providers of logistical support. Accordingly, a key conclusion of the Symposium was to create a regional network connecting all first responders operating in the Caribbean and their critical support partners, in order to promote interaction and share knowledge and experience.
To assess the need for this network, ADN carried out a series of stakeholder consultations from April to July 2022 funded by the University of Leicester’s Knowledge Exchange Proof of Concept Fund for the project ‘Regional Network for First Responders (RN4FR)’. Consultations involved an online survey with 71 first responders using Qualtrics software from 15 countries, two Stakeholder’s Workshop with 38 participants from 16 countries, and 3 Stakeholder’s Consultations with 31 first responders from 10 countries.
Consultations based on multiple methods revealed a strong interest from all parties in addressing capacity gaps, in particular the 3C gaps, through this network. There was a positive reception from CDEMA, drawing on its coordination mandate, to act as the network’s convener.
The Roadmap: Drawing on the ideas and perspectives gained from the consultations, a “Roadmap” has been prepared to realise the intentions expressed for connecting the key actors engaged in and supporting efforts to respond to disaster events in the countries and sovereign territories of the Caribbean. The Roadmap provides an implementation plan on how to launch the Caribbean First Responders Community (CFRC), and a brief description of this is provided below.
The Community consists of people with a common profession or interest coming together in a voluntary association to share knowledge and experience (without detracting from or duplicating their current affiliations) and address issues drawn from the consultations: community-building, capacity-building, standardisation, team-building, and sustainability. Membership would be open to all professionals or volunteers involved with or interested in the various aspects of disaster response and reducing disaster deaths in the Caribbean, including Civil Society, NGOs, Emergency Services, Defence, critical support partners, specialists from academia, think tanks and consulting firms, the private sector, and the media. The Community would be convened by the CDEMA Coordinating Unit and guided by the Comprehensive Disaster Management’s Coordination and Harmonisation Council (with the addition of ADN) acting as the Advisory Group.
The Operating Model: The model suggested for building a Caribbean First Responders Community would subscribe professionals to a moderated group forum with two channels – a social media channel (“Share”) for sharing information, news and views, and an email-based consultation channel (“Consult”) for members to respond to queries or discussion questions posed by other members. These channels create trust-based relationships. Beyond the Share and Consult virtual channels, the model would use a collaboration platform and tools for teams (“Action Groups”) to develop products – standardised guidelines, protocols, policies, etc. – generated by the consultations or sponsored by Advisory Group members. And subject to resource availability, the Community would meet face-to-face in an “Annual Forum,” applying time-tested interactive processes for maximising member interaction, networking, and peer-to-peer learning.
The journey from sharing to consulting to collaborating to engaging is detailed as a Roadmap, provisionally can last up to 18 to 24 months, depending on the size of the Community and the degree of trust-building required.
Implementation of this Roadmap would be through a project to reinforce the implementation of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy, reduce avoidable deaths, and mitigate the extent of disruption from disaster events in the countries and sovereign territories of the Caribbean region through the establishment of a vibrant, valued and sustained Caribbean First Responders Community.
The Value Proposition: A Caribbean Community of First Responders is anticipated to reduce avoidable deaths and mitigate disruption for vulnerable local communities, improve Community members’ effectiveness and expand their professional networks, open up research opportunities through ADN’s international network of research hubs, as well as capacity-building training and study opportunities through access to comparative experiences, expertise and resources available globally, improve the capacity of the Regional Training Centre, implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy, and contribute to the implementation of the United Nations Sendai Framework’s targets A and B, and the ‘priorities for actions’ globally.
Authors’ short bios: Dr. Nibedita Ray-Bennett is the Founding President of the ADN and an Associate Professor in Risk Management at the University of Leicester. Mr. Steve Glovinsky an ADN Advisory Board Member, an international development consultant specialising in development and change with over 40 years’ experience in the UN system.
ADN (2021) symposium, ‘Integrating Disaster Risk Management with Emergency Services and Defence to Reduce Avoidable Disaster Deaths’. ADN Publication Available online: https://www.avoidable-deaths.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/ADN-Symposium-Report_06.02.022.pdf
CDEMA (2014) Regional Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy & Results Framework, 2014-2024. CDEMA publication.
CDEMA (2016) The Regional Response Mechanism. CDEMA Publication