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Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is able to fill the human resource gap between its small staff and big mandate through the use of volunteers. Deputy National Disaster Coordinator at NEMA, Claricia Langley-Stevens, attributed a lot of what NEMA was able to achieve before and after a hazard to their involvement.

Mrs. Langley-Stevens gave an overview of the function of volunteers on the "Working For You" radio programme on September 27.

"We start that volunteer programme by firstly dividing the island of St. Kitts, in particular, into districts and we use...so that persons do not get confused, the electoral boundaries or lines of demarcation and so technically whatever is constituency number one, by NEMA's standards, become district number one so persons can...be able to understand what district they live or work in," Mrs. Langley-Stevens explained.

District management committees are established in each district that mirror the national committee, that is, having positions such as a chair, deputy chair and individuals responsible for shelter management, transportation, logistics, and community development, among others.She stated that the committee also comprised persons who did hold a position, but were there to support whatever the district committee was called on to do.

"One of the main roles of the district [committee] is to keep the agency informed as to what is happening at a community level, but more so they are also challenged to create programmes to support NEMA's national plan to be able to help develop these communities," Mrs. Langley-Stevens added. The district committees are also charged with identifying their vulnerabilities and informing NEMA of some of the things that would affect the area and its residents in the event of a hazard.

"Our volunteers are the ones who do the post hazard needs assessment after we would have been impacted providing data to NEMA to be able to share with the damage assessment committee...[to] formulate the figures of how many households or families would have been affected and so that's where some of the data would have come from, so they play a very integral role," she said."Once we know that we're being impacted by any hazard, and even in peace time, we try to let the public know or make them aware of who their district managers are, the assistant managers, and how they are able to get in touch with them, and sometimes we intensify that when we know that a storm is approaching or imminent as the case may be and we share their contact numbers you know."

The deputy national disaster coordinator said that NEMA was able to design training specifically for district committee members and communities based on some of the known vulnerabilities and needs. "A lot of our training is done, not only for staff, but for our volunteers."

Mrs. Langley-Stevens expressed her gratitude for all volunteers registered with NEMA and stressed that preparing and responding following a disaster could not be effectively carried out without their support.

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