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
As a result of the El Niño phenomenon and the thinning of the ozone layer, the Brazilian state of São Paulo is suffering from an increase in rainfall during the summer, as well as unusually dry winters.
Civil Defense of São Carlos decided to respond to the severe damage caused by these phenomena, which includes floods, soil erosion and the destruction of public roads. In July 1999, the municipal authority began to implement an integrated meteorological control system for São Carlos and environs. Civil defense officials and volunteers, specially trained since early 1999, participated in the installation of the equipment, which includes computers, thermometers, hydrometers, barometers and pluviometers.
The Chief of Civil Defense of São Carlos, Pedro Caballero, stated, The system really represents a technological step forward at the service of man and the Municipality of São Carlos, a pioneer in the region in providing such a service.
The equipment is connected to the telephone grid and several communications and data services provided by the Brazilian Telephone Company, EMBRATEL, enabling connection with other public data networks in Brazil and abroad, such as RENPAC, a high-speed digital computer network.
Because these networks share resources and set fees according to the volume of use, they will make it possible to link a practically unlimited number of systems, applications and data transmissions.
Through RENPAC, Civil Defense has access to the UNESP Institute of Meteorological Research (IPMET), which provides constantly updated maps showing rainfall in a 450 Km radius, which covers the entire state of São Paulo as well as border sections of Paraná, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais and the São Paulo seaboard.
These detailed visualization models, which show cities, rivers and other features, include animations of rainfall patterns detected by radar. If properly used, they should allow two-hour forecasts of heavy rains, enabling Civil Defense to take preventive measures for each sector at risk.
Chile has concentrated in recent years on reaching higher development levels. One of the areas in which these efforts have taken place is Civil Protection within the framework of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), whose recommendations have been followed by Chile with energy and intelligence.
The country has achieved a reduction in mortality rates associated with the most common natural disasters, and consolidated a National Civil Protection System aimed at integrating all efforts in this direction.
During the decade, there have been some very positive results, such as successful early warnings of the El Niño and La Niña phenomena that have saved lives. National plans and methodologies have been implemented and appropriated by local communities, and several countries have asked for assistance from Chile in the establishment and strengthening of local capacity in disaster reduction.
During the week of 25 October 1999, the National Emergency Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior (ONEMI) organized two workshops, lasting two days each, in the cities of Arica and Iquique, in the northern region of Tarapac, on Development Vulnerabilities In Connection With Disasters: A New Approach For A New Millennium. Close to 250 participants attended each event, which brought together international experts on risk management and reduction. The group of experts included seven members of the IDNDR Scientific and Technical Committee, five from the Leadership Coalition for Business Protection, a global private-sector initiative for business continuity and recovery in the face of natural disasters, and civil authorities from neighbouring countries. More than 20 additional participants made presentations, including representatives of the police force, local, regional and national governments, scientists, educators, business people and professionals in various disciplines related to risk reduction.
In each of the seminars, attention was paid to the significance of natural hazards in the context of modern development, and to risk and vulnerability reduction initiatives in Chile and neighbouring countries, particularly local initiatives in Arica, Iquique and nearby communities in Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. The high level of participation, exemplified by the outstanding presentations and thought-provoking discussions during the workshops, underscored the commitment of Chilean professionals to civil protection and risk reduction. The workshops were also a useful showcase for local initiatives and opportunities for regional collaboration.
The seminars were funded by ONEMI and partner institutions in Chile, as another contribution to the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).