The Belize Red Cross assisted the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) with disaster management training, procurement of equipment as well as training in the use of GIS software. Love News spoke to Lily Bowman, the Director General of the Belize Red Cross and Ian Joseph, a GIS Officer from the American Red Cross who says that the equipment includes a drone, a portable server, a camcorder and a kit with phones and accessories to conduct on the ground assessment.
Lily Bowman: “THe US Embassies CARSI ESF program had called for proposals, the Red Cross was awarded funding for disaster reduction/ strengthening of partnerships through Accountability and Transparency project. This is one of the deliverables. The Red Cross is always looking to improve the way we do things in the fields for the communities especially when it comes to data collection we want to be more accurate, we want to be more transparent and we want to bring it home real time so that we could get back into the communities fast enough to deliver the services that they need in assistance. We are auxiliary to the Government as a Red Cross society in the country in all humanitarian fields so it’s natural that when it has to do whatever related with disaster we will reach out to Nemo who is the National authority in the country for disaster and so whatever we improve on our side we would like to have the same done on Nemo’s side so that we can be more standard in the way we collect data and the way we respond in times of disasters especially. The training was done with getting to know the drone, getting to know how to operate it, how to set it up and so forth from Saturday with more technical people including persons from Nemo and from Monday to today the theory part and a little more practice has been taking place. We have four Nemo personnel, four national personal in the five national resources personnel in the room and they have been in the training the whole time along with the Ministry of Education and the Belize Red Cross.
Jose Sanchez: “ Part of the training you are doing is using GIS using an online website, how does that impact what is happening here today on the website?
Instructor of Program: “So Open Street Map is a global map that is updated and created by the communities that live in those places and the date is free and open for anybody to use so unlike Google Maps where you can just use it to find the local restaurant or store through their interface you can actually access the data and use it to make your custom map visualizations or do important disasters and response work understanding where communities are at risk and what those risks are and better able to respond to disasters and so teaching people about how to collect data to update that map and also how to access the data and use it is really important for disaster resilience.
Jose Sanchez: “ So how do you see the equipment being donated today being utilized in relation to the Open Street Map.
Instructor of Program: “So a variety of technicals have been donated: the drone for collecting high resolution aerial imagery so either in the aftermath of a disaster or before you can go out and collect imagery to create update to the maps that represent what is there in reality, super high resolution and super up to date. They have included in the kits phones for collecting data in field so instead of going out with clipboards and paper you can do things digitally and get data that is much accurate and you can collect it quickly and efficiently and also a digital action camera for collecting street level imagery so you can build your own street level assessment of the area and collect data that way as well.
The equipment is valued at $20,000.
The Minister of National Emergency Management Organization, Edmund Castro was on hand to receive the equipment on behalf of NEMO. Castro said the equipment and training will be fully utilized by the officers in his ministry especially when it comes to assessing damages after storms.
Minister of National Emergency Management Organization, Edmund Castro: “On behalf of the Government and people of Belize we are thankful to the Red Cross to provide us with such a great donation. Some of the donations most notably is the one of a drone which will be able to deal with the damage assessment for us in the times of disaster so we are very thankful to them and all the other donors that assist and donated to the Belize Red Cross so we are thankful for them. There is a list of the items which are too numerous to mention. I think I will leave that for Mrs. Bowman to go through the list of all the items but the set of items that we are receiving here as donation will help us in disaster recovery greatly. We already have plans for these items but for me to tell you where the drone will go and who will get what cell phone I will leave that to the national coordinator and Colonel Defor.
Jose Sanchez: “What is the importance of having this drone in particular to have real time images, real time information on the ground while doing damage?
Minister of National Emergency Management Organization, Edmund Castro: “I think it helps us a lot in terms of we will be able to get real time assessment and basically we don’t miss anybody or any houses that has been damaged and also it will help us in that you will be unable to lie to say that Peter’s house went down, Jane house went down when there is no real data from the drone that is telling us that Peter had a house or 100 houses went down when there was only 50 or 75 so the instruments that we are now equipped with will now be able to assist us greatly in real time.”