Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean Inssue No. 15, 1999
Risk management at the local level requires a well articulated system of interconnections in each neighbourhood between the municipal authorities, provincial or national institutions, NGOs, grassroots organizations and the private sector, not to mention volunteers such as the ones involved in the project described below, Alerta.
In July 1997, after several months of technical preparations, an intersectoral programme called Alerta was launched in response to the hydrometeorological disturbances caused by the El Niño phenomenon, which caused frequent floods in vulnerable neighbourhoods, particularly those of the most disadvantaged sectors of society. Alerta is a municipal effort supported by Civil Defense and the Department of Quality of Life of the Municipality of General Pueyrredon, the capital of which is the town of Mar del Plata. Stable residents number 620,000, and they are augmented by the arrival of 5,000,000 tourists each year.
The chief goal of the Alerta programme is to guarantee a prompt and effective response by Civil Defense to natural disasters in vulnerable neighbourhoods, particularly in an area called Partido de General Pueyrredon.
The programme promotes the training and organizing of volunteers and community organizations so that they can coordinate their response to natural disasters. Interested neighbours and civil society organizations can participate in a nine-week course taught by professionals from Civil Defense, the Department of Quality of Life of the municipality, the Mar del Plata Sanitation Works, the Camuzzi gas company, another company called Empresa Distribuidora de Energía Atlántica, the Firefighters Corps of the Province of Buenos Aires, and volunteers from the Sierras de los Padres and CORPS Survival Groups.
After the training was complete, participants were provided technical assistance by Civil Defense and municipal social workers to design their community organization, which will intervene in all phases of natural disasters (including their prevention), and inform the neighbours about the correct way to behave to mitigate and respond to an emergency.
The methodology applied was as follows:
Alerta Volunteers are being handed special ID to facilitate their community prevention and response efforts. Moreover, they all meet once a year to network and exchange experiences and ideas.
What has been achieved after two years of work?
The Programmes Technical Team wants to give greater emphasis to local risk management. The intention is to integrate the organization and training of volunteers into a broader proposal for urban management.
In neighbourhoods such as these, effective risk management is nothing less than a component of sustainable development. The search for change must involve all social stakeholders; hence the need to engage in institutional capacity building.
For more information,