May 24, 2016


For four days in mid-May, the words “EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE” headed an accelerating stream of messages to the United Nations (UN) team in Barbados and the OECS, culminating in an emergency relocation from UN House to the nearby headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The cause of these messages was a simulation exercise designed to test the preparedness of the UN agencies based in Barbados to respond to a natural disaster in the subregion.  In recognition of the region’s vulnerability, the scenario included the formation of a system in the Atlantic, which turned into “Hurricane Otto” and passed over Barbados and then Saint Lucia.  In the process, UN House became unusable, and the senior management team had to re-establish operations at PAHO.  In addition to working to determine needs and assist in the response in two countries, the UN team had to trace all UN staff and dependents, and communicate with regional and headquarters support teams to mobilize support.

The simulation was a useful and at times surprising refresher course on UN preparedness and response for a natural disaster in the subregion.  The simulation was timed to precede the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane season, which begins on 1 June.

Credit for the design and execution of the simulation goes to the PAHO Disaster Management Team, and special thanks also go to CDEMA and the Canadian High Commission for their participation.

Meeting of Eastern Caribbean Development Partners Group
UN Country Team meets to assess the situation

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