International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
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Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean        Inssue No. 15, 1999


Regional Disaster Information Centre (CRID),
Latin America and the Caribbean

What is CRID?

CRID’s mission is to promote the development of a culture of prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean by dissemination disaster information and encouraging cooperation to improve risk management in the region.

Aware of the key role of information in the management of risk reduction, and in response to the needs expressed by governments and civil society institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean, six organizations got together in 1997 to sponsor the creation of the Regional Disaster Information Centre (CRID), building on the successes of an earlier initiative by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).

To date, CRID has more than 12,000 bibliographical records and audiovisual material related to disasters. The collection has been assembled thanks to the collaboration of sponsor organizations and the contacts made with risk management entities, including ministries, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

In addition to distributing documents of interest to more than 6,000 users in the region, CRID responds to more than 1,000 requests for specialized information each year.

CRID and the Regional Disaster Information System

The growing need for information services led CRID in 1997 to support a proposal by the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) Secretariat, PAHO/WHO, the LA RED Network of Social Studies on Disasters, and CEPREDENAC, to establish a Regional Disaster Information System (SRID). So far, over 30 local and national organizations have joined the System, which has been officially recognized by the Economic Secretariat for Latin America (SELA) and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).

The System serves a dual purpose: to strengthen national capacity to gather and disseminate up-to-date information on each country’s current risk profile and risk-mitigation actions, and to facilitate the exchange of experiences among countries in the region in order to reduce hemispheric vulnerability. Honduras, Costa Rica and Venezuela have already launched national disaster information networks. At the regional level, the European Union’s Humanitarian Office (ECHO) is also supporting the Caribbean Disaster Information Network (CARDIN), which aims to serve the information needs of this significant subregion. CARDIN also has links with CRID (see separate story).

Chief products of 1999

As the coordinator of the System, CRID has prepared a key product: the Controlled Disaster Glossary, the first version of a Regional Thesaurus on Disaster Terminology. In partnership with the Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Information Centre (BIREME), and with the support of experts throughout the region, the Glossary records more than 1,500 terms, synonyms, and notes on usage. The Glossary will be massively distributed on BIREME’s LILACS CD-ROM, and will also be available in print and on CRID’s Web site (

Another important CRID product, sponsored by IDNDR, BIREME and the PAHO/WHO Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Coordination Programme (PED), and financed by ECHO, has been the development of a training module for the creation of specialized information units on disaster reduction. In the framework of the ECHO project, two workshops were organized in Honduras and El Salvador, benefiting more than 20 local and national institutions in those countries, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. The University of San Carlos in Guatemala organized an additional course in which 10 national institutions took part. Such activities are promoting a common methodology that should facilitate the prompt and low-cost exchange of information.

In close collaboration with IDNDR, and with funding from ECHO and the government of Sweden, CRID has supported PAHO/WHO in the creation of the first Virtual Library on the subject. It brings together more than 250 documents on disasters and disaster reduction, chiefly produced by PAHO, IDNDR, WHO and Costa Rica’s National Emergency Commission, as well as other national and international organizations. Documents are available on CD-ROM as well as several Web sites, including,, and

The Virtual Library was designed by the Humanity Library Project of Global Help Projects, an international NGO.

The CD-ROM version includes a search engine that facilitates the quick retrieval of pertinent documents both in English and in Spanish.

Where is CRID headed?

Latin America and the Caribbean’s vulnerability to destructive natural phenomena underscores the urgent need to improve inter-institutional coordination and information gathering and dissemination channels, so that vulnerable communities and decision-makers can improve their risk management capacity.

In this context, CRID is taking on the following challenges:

  • Strengthen its base competency, adding value to bibliographical records and incorporating additional information such as lessons learned, maps, abstracts and others.
  • Select technical cooperation services that it can provide by taking advantage of its human and technological resources.
  • Strengthen the Regional Disaster Information System as an efficient way of gathering and dissemination information, building capacity at the local and national level, and promoting the active participation of local counterpart organizations.
  • Secure the financial resources required to carry out its work.

The regional nature of CRID, based on its coverage, the scope of its information, and its direct contact with users and information demand, gives it a unique profile that must be strengthened. Taking advantage of lessons learned at the national level in the setting up of information networks, CRID is currently undergoing an internal self-assessment of the job done so far, with a view to designing information products that can ensure its sustainability. The continuing support of users and sponsors, and the incorporation of additional partners, will enable CRID to continue providing ever better services at a low cost for the region’s benefit.

For more information, please contact:
Regional Disaster Information Centre (CRID)
Apartado postal 3475-1000, San José, Costa Rica
Tel (506) 296-3952
Fax (506) 231-5973


The Caribbean Disaster Information Network

In December 1997, meetings began in Jamaica involving the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) Secretariat, PAHO/WHO, and the Library of the University of the West Indies. The goal was to explore ways of strengthening the links between Caribbean countries and the Regional Disaster Information Centre (CRID) in order to provide better tools to help disseminate disaster-related information in the subregion. The initiative was taken up again later in meetings with the European Union’s Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and other organizations involved in disaster reduction.

The Caribbean is prone to destructive natural phenomena such as hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides and floods. Subregional governments have therefore shown keen interest in disaster preparedness, response and planning, so as to prevent major catastrophes in the future.

The Caribbean Disaster Information Network (CARDIN) was launched out of the need to have ready access to the kind of information needed for risk reduction and management. It is a new organization that hopes to learn and benefit from the experiences of other institutions involved in disaster information. The project started unofficially in June 1999, and was inaugurated officially during a ceremony at the Main Library of the University of the West Indies (UWI) on 22 September 1999.

CARDIN, which is financed by ECHO, has kept busy establishing contacts in order to expand its collection and facilitate access to it. Although there is a Unit for Disaster Studies at the University of the West Indies’ Mona campus, and a Seismic Unit at the St. Augustine campus in Trinidad, the notion of collecting disaster-related information from all over the Caribbean and providing it from a single source is a new one.

So far, much of CARDIN’s success can be attributed to the cooperation of the Regional Disaster Information Centre (CRID), the Disaster Preparedness Programme of the European Union’s Humanitarian Office (DIPECHO), the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Jamaican office for Disaster Preparedness and Emergencies, and the Department of Geography and Geology of the University of the West Indies at Mona.

CDERA Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Response Agency
CLAMED Latin American Centre for Disaster Medicine
CRID Regional Disaster Information Centre
IDNDR International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction
IFRC International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
NDO National Disaster Organization
PAHO Pan American Health Organization
UAG University of the Antilles Guyana
UWI University of the West Indies

The mission

CARDIN’s mission is to develop an extensive database of disaster-related information and make it available in the Caribbean’s four main languages: English, Spanish, Dutch and French. Although many Web sites offer information on disasters in different countries or parts of the Caribbean, CARDIN hopes through its database and Web site to become a “one-stop shop” for disaster information in the subregion.

How can this be accomplished?

The answer lies in the network model. In such a model, the University of the West Indies (UWI) serves as the central node. It was selected to play this role because it is a regional organization that has libraries in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica, and that offers distance education to residents of many of the other islands. The network model enables pre-existing institutions to act as CARDIN nodes, such as CDERA, which long had “the largest collection of disaster information in the Caribbean”, CLAMED, an autonomous institution that is officially part of the Ministry of Health in Cuba and covers several disciplines and sectors, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Université Antilles Guyanne, PAHO, the Netherlands Antilles, and several national disaster mitigation and response organizations. CRID is part of the network, but in an advisory role. The network may be expanded in the medium and long term to include additional partners.

CARDIN’s chief objectives during its first phase are the following:

  • To carry out a needs assessment by means of a survey to identify potential network participants, the degree of participation required to be part of the network, the state of telecommunications and access to computers in the various islands, and training needs in the subregion.
  • To establish a database with disaster information that can be made available over the Internet, in CD-ROMs and in print format.
  • To prepare a comprehensive bibliography of disaster-related information produced in or on the Caribbean, including publications in English, Spanish, Dutch and French.
  • To publish a bulletin with analyses of contemporary topics that promote an ongoing dialogue among professionals and researchers in disaster prevention.
  • To disseminate disaster information to the general population.
  • To provide document retrieval and distribution services.

In future, the goals are the following:

  • To complete the needs assessment survey in order to find out the information needs of each country.
  • To complete the methodology and the procedures for the cooperative development of the CARDIN database.
  • To organize training programmes in each country.
  • To test the methodology and procedures mentioned above in a pilot-project phase.

Starting in 2000, CARDIN will support the International Disaster Reduction Strategy by disseminating disaster information to a wider public, and it is hoped that it may become a world-class disaster information gathering and dissemination organization for the benefit of Caribbean people and interested parties everywhere.

For more information, please contact:
Main Library, University of the West Indies
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
Tel (1-876) 927-1661 Ext. 2294, 927-2123
Fax (1-876) 927-1926