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National Emergency Preparedness and Response in Focus for the Caribbean


During the week-long course, the participants took part in hands-on exercises to develop suitable Emergency Preparedness and Response plans. (Photo: M. Otarra/IAEA)

An effective response plan to a radiological incident or emergency establishes control of the situation quickly and mitigates its harmful effects. Without the appropriate resources, training and exercises, these efforts may be compromised. The IAEA organized a regional training course from 13 to 17 May on the development of national radiological emergency plans in line with the IAEA safety standards, to support Caribbean countries in preparing for emergencies.

Organized under an ongoing, regional technical cooperation (TC) project[1], eighteen decision-makers and experts from nine countries, working in the fields of public safety, environmental health and disaster management, attended the course. The course began by exploring the key elements of an emergency response plan. Lecturers guided trainees on the development of emergency preparedness and response (EPR) arrangements in their respective countries. The students completed practical exercises on existing EPR digital platforms and studied historical examples of radiological emergency responses.  

“Belize has a legislative framework for emergency preparedness and has an established National Coordinating Mechanism, the National Emergency Management Organization. However, while Belize is very effective and experienced in addressing natural disaster emergencies, such as hurricanes, there is no emergency plan at the national level to address radiological emergencies,” said Jorge Franco, Environmental Officer at the Department of Environment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development. “It is envisioned that the Department of the Environment will spearhead the development of Belize’s National Radiological Emergency Plan in collaboration with key stakeholders.”

Expert lecturers, IAEA staff and participants of the regional training course on emergency preparedness and response. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

Saul Perez Pijuan, Section Head in the Technical Cooperation Division of Latin American and the Caribbean, noted the high level of commitment in the region to prepare for radiological emergencies. “In 2017 the IAEA developed and signed a Practical Arrangement with the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency,” Mr Pijuan said. “Subsequently, the IAEA sponsored two very successful activities: a Regional Training Course for First Responders to a Radiological Emergencies in Barbados and the first IAEA School of Radiation Emergency Management for the Caribbean, held in partnership with Texas A&M University, both held in 2018.” This latest course builds on these activities and is specifically aimed at strengthening capacities among English-speaking countries in the Caribbean.  

Jordan Arnswald, an Emergency Preparedness Officer at the IAEA’s the Incident and Emergency Centre, highlighted the importance of the practical aspects of the course. “Many participants had trained in radiological EPR in the past, but the course brought their expertise to a more advanced level. They were taught by experts with practical experience in the field, practiced with EPR tools and shared regional experiences. The commitment of the participants was evident and demonstrated by the high-quality discussions of national strategies throughout the week and in presentations on the final day,” he said.

The Regional Training Course was attended by participants from nine IAEA Member States in the Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

[1] RLA9082, ‘Establishing and Strengthening Sustainable National Regulatory Infrastructures for the Control of Radiation Sources’


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