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

In the Spotlight: Communities


Program for Reducing Vulnerability to Floods and Developing Early Warning Systems in Small River Basins

The purpose of this program is to train and support groups of citizens, public and private organization officials and members of NGOs in local communities in analyzing vulnerability to floods and developing measures to mitigate risk, monitor water- and meteorological phenomena, and developing early-warning and response systems.

The program includes the following activities:

  1. Analyzing the vulnerability to floods of the economic and social infrastructure found in small river basins.
  2. Reducing vulnerability to floods and executing mitigation measures to reduce damage to economic and social infrastructure.
  3. Carrying out a hydrological assessment and developing river volume monitoring and forecasting systems.
  4. Setting up a hydrometric and rainfall monitoring system to forecast floods and give early warning to local communities.
  5. Building local capacity for emergency planning, flood preparedness, and response.

Since 1995, five stages of the Program have been carried out in Central America. The first was a pilot stage in Honduras, carried out with the support of the European Union’s Humanitarian Office (ECHO). It focused on developing basic methods for designing a simple early-warning system with community participation to reduce the risk of floods in small river basins.

Phase II, once again with ECHO’s support, strove to develop a national model in Honduras. A team of professionals was trained in vulnerability assessment, mitigation planning, hydrological analysis, flood forecasting, monitoring and warning, using the methodology developed during Phase I. In addition, community preparedness and response activities were carried out.

During Phase III, training was expanded to the rest of Central America with ECHO’s support, standardizing the methodology and the technical training material produced by the Program. At this stage, the following regional institutions became involved: the Center for Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC), the Regional Hydraulic Resources Committee, and the Federation of Central American Isthmus Municipalities (FEMICA). Moreover, a tutoring program was set up with the collaboration of the United States Association of State Flood Plain Managers (ASFPM).

During Phase IV, in light of the El Niño phenomenon and once again with ECHO’s support, the national teams of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama focused on a pilot project in a minor river basin in each country. National teams of professionals were assembled in each country to produce the technical information required for the Program to go forward.

The government of Ireland is supporting Phase V, currently in execution in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, in an attempt to apply the lessons learned during Hurricane Mitch. The Irish government has approved a second tract of funding for this initiative, with additional technical and financial resources from the Pan-American Foundation for Development and the World Bank, for Program activities in Honduras and Nicaragua, the two countries hardest hit by Mitch.

This Program is unique in the region in developing “low-tech” systems that are directly managed by the community to provide warning of impending floods and provide information to local governments to plan their development activities while reducing vulnerability to floods. At the regional level, a proposal has been drafted to establish a Central American platform for linking the institutions mentioned above and others in implementing the Program across the Isthmus. Other national and international institutions are also being encouraged to participate.

For more information about this Program, please visit
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