International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001


Partners in action


Risk management diagnosis: a tool applied in cuban communities

The World Campaign for Disaster Risk Reduction is intended to reduce existing risks through various tools that contribute to the protection of human settlements. One of the aims of this campaign is to gather best practices and experiences that result from case studies developed in different fields, with the purpose of reducing vulnerability among populations living in hazard-prone areas (ISDR, 2005).

Due to its geographical position -it lies at the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico- Cuba is a country susceptible to extreme meteorological events. The experience gained through the occurrence of a number of disasters has led to the development of prevention strategies within the overall Cuban environmental policy.

In practice, the Agency for the Environment of the Ministry of Science has increased the number of research programs in disaster-prone areas, with the purpose of improving an early warning-based disaster prevention system.

Diagnosis: a useful tool
Diagnoses have been traditionally used to identify and treat diseases and conduct educational research. The term diagnosis means knowledge, whose aim is to identify and typify a research topic, so that changes are introduced based upon this characterization (Castellanos, D., 1991).

In Cuba, currently diagnoses in the field of risk management bring about multiple results, which are systematically incorporated into geo-environmental studies. Diagnoses are also included in development programs and are closely linked to scientific procedures.

A diagnosis carried out in the field of risk management represents a scientific and operational tool and was initially introduced in Cuba while conducting studies in Mariel, a town located in the province of Havana. This type of diagnosis consists of methodological, integrated and planned tools, with specific goals geared toward information management processes in disaster situations (Pacheco, S. E., 2003).

In Cuba, the effectiveness of using diagnoses is reflected in the work done by multi-disciplinary teams at the local level. It is worth mentioning that the size of some areas is so large that these require appropriate land zoning. In order to conduct a useful study in the field of information management for risk reduction, the physical, geographic and socioeconomic characteristics of these territories should be taken into account.

There are three primary steps to develop a diagnosis, and they might be subject to the activities planned, the size of the area and the time required to conduct the study.

The unbreakable relationship between the cause and effect of a problem is also present within the environments in which disasters occur. For this reason, before conducting a study it is important to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What happened?
  • What is happening?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What can I do to prevent risks?

From a risk reduction perspective, multiple results will be obtained through this process. In the case of Cuba, results have been included in the current Catastrophe Plan for Operational Staff. Some of these results are:

  • Information on the physical, economic and socio-cultural characteristics of a specific region;
  • Identification of the main environmental problems;
  • Forecast of potential hazards;
  • Population size, age/gender distribution, concentration and displacement;
  • Industries, types of services and their response capacity;
  • Prevention, medical and other services (firefighters, polico fficers, transport, medical centers, clinics, hospitals, ambulances, schools, social workers, etc.);
  • Organization of existing institutions and support provided for them;
  • Inventories; and,
  • Mapped information to be used by operational staff.

A diagnosis for risk management offers information on a specific area and allows operational staff to respond in a positive manner to disaster situations.

For additional information, please contact:
Silvestre Elier Pacheco Moreno, elier@iga.cu
Institute of Geophysics and Astronomy
Agency for the Environment, CITMA, Cuba