Wednesday, 10 June 2009 8:26 AM

Regional Meteorological and Disaster Management Personnel Join Forces

Disaster managers and Meteorological Service Directors came together, for the first time in over a decade, for a Joint Pacific Regional Meeting in May. The last such meeting took place in 1998, at which time there was a resolution passed calling upon more joint meetings of the two groups of professionals.

Press Release:

Throughout the region at the national level, both departments coordinate activities closely. Tsunamis, cyclones, flooding, heavy swells, droughts and other hydro-meteorological hazards account for more than 80% of natural disasters in the Pacific region.

The extreme 2005 cyclone season in the Cook Islands saw the two offices work hand in hand to keep the nation well informed and as protected as possible. With the threats of climate change impacts, the two offices are critical for building safe and resilient Pacific Island communities.

Th meeting of the heads of both departments throughout the Pacific helped to strengthen ties and cooperation on a regional basis.

Coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), the theme of the meeting was "Strengthening End-to-End Early Warning Systems - Challenges and Opportunities."

"We covered a wide range of issues but overall the objective was on how to improve how the two offices can work together and to identify common needs and issues that need to be addressed both at the national and regional level," said Dean Solofa of SPREP.

Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management efforts will be enhanced in the Pacific nations following recommendations which called for continued collaboration between these departments.

It was recommended that there be an increase in synchronized community outreach activities in the Pacific, particularly with regard to media interaction and involvement, community preparedness and civil society participation.

"The importance of community early warning systems was highlighted as well. There is a definite need to get out to the 'last mile,' so to speak, to ensure that even remote communities have their needs for an early warning system addressed. By working together we can decide how best to adapt the technologies and tools available to each office for community implementation to meet such a need. In fact there are good case studies showing how some local communities in Vanuatu, Niue and the FSM have benefited from doing exactly this. Reaching the last mile or the most distant community is a challenge that will always be present in the Pacific and what should drive us at the national and regional level to ensure that we work effectively together," added Solofa.

Another key recommendation was the call for integration of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation issues into future development planning and budgeting processes as part of the move towards mainstreaming.

The meeting also proposed that sub-regional tsunami warning centres be established to enhance coverage provided by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

"Just having this joint meeting creates some milestones at the regional level. SPREP and SOPAC realize that we have common audiences with common goals to be met, so having jointly organized this meeting has been a positive experience all around. Both sides have learnt many lessons and gained new insights regarding how to continue to make better the already great relationship we enjoy."

One of the final recommendations of this meeting was to hold future joint regional meetings between National Disaster Management Offices and Meteorological Service Directors.

This meeting was held after the 13RMSD Meeting in Nadi, Fijji.

For more information please contact Dean Solofa, SPREP PI-GCOS Officer, at 695 21929 or by email at deans@sprep.org.