Early Participatory Intervention for Catastrophe
by Kat Haynes, Ilan Kelman, and Tom Mitchell
This webpage is updated from:
Haynes, K. I. Kelman, and T. Mitchell. 2005. "Early Participatory Intervention for Catastrophe to Reduce Island Vulnerability (EPIC)". International Journal of Island Affairs, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 56-59, full text (711 kb in PDF).
Haynes, K. I. Kelman, and T. Mitchell. 2006. "Early Participatory Intervention for Catastrophe to Reduce Island Vulnerability". Poster in Symposium V "Risk Management" at Cities on Volcanoes 4, Quito, Ecuador, 23-27 January 2006, abstract (9 kb in PDF).
DEPICT: Deployable EPIC Team.
Hot Volcano, Cold Stars: Soufrière Hills, Montserrat.
Disasters in small communities and isolated locations, such as islands, can have devastating impact. The small size and isolation of these communities creates a situation where a relatively small hazard event can threaten an entire nation or culture, as seen from the impact of volcanic eruptions and hurricanes in Montserrat and Tristan da Cunha. In many instances, for example volcanism on Montserrat and Ascension Island, generations of inhabitants might have had little or no experience of certain hazards before they cause major disruption while the local authorities might have a low level of preparedness. Building resilience against and reducing vulnerability to extreme events which have never been experienced is especially challenging.
During a rapid-onset catastrophe, specialists from overseas are often drafted in to the disaster location and hastily initiate a top-down approach to the risk awareness campaign, with little cross-discipline collaboration. These campaigns tend to be of limited success due to conflict between (a) the outsiders’ strategies and interests and (b) the local community’s perspectives and decision makers. Little consideration is given to the distinct worldviews of the population at risk, potentially resulting in a negative cycle of distrust and disbelief along with the development of misconceptions. Once initiated, such as situation is difficult to redress.
This proposal hypothesises that the combination of ‘early intervention’ with a ‘participatory approach’ would best reduce island vulnerability to both catastrophic and chronic disasters. The combination could be termed EPIC: Early Participatory Intervention for Catastrophe. EPIC should ideally occur long before a hazard threatens, but would also be essential when a crisis manifests and in the immediate and long-term aftermaths of extreme events.
Generally sudden-onset, high-impact events which manifest over a relatively short time scale (although exceptions exist). Examples are aeroplane crashes, blizzards, chemical explosions, earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist bombs, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions.
Generally slow-onset, high-impact events which manifest and perpetuate over a relatively long time scale (although exceptions exist). Most such problems are associated with underdevelopment, violate basic human rights, and preclude sustainability and long-term health for that society. Examples are domestic violence, inequality, poor education or poor access to education, inappropriate waste management, poor water quality and access, and poverty.
Proactive engagement by an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners with vulnerable communities before a crisis event occurs. The purposes are to sensitise the researchers to the cultural values of the population, to increase risk awareness, and to set the stage for appropriate vulnerability reduction measures.
Researchers and practitioners working co-operatively with community members to understand and resolve community problems, to empower community members, and to democratise research and application. The ultimate aim should be a balance of local knowledge with the wider perspective of the outside team. The process should be an exchange, rather than one side dominating.
Rodney Bay, St. Lucia:
Interviewing (a Chat) on Montserrat:
Past island case studies which used the EPIC approach or aspects thereof need to be researched. Some possibilities for success or part-success stories:
A contrast would be needed with island examples where significant elements of EPIC were absent producing serious consequences. Some examples:
Other incidents are more challenging to categorise. For example:
Some case studies displayed self-help (or self-sustainability) which would be useful to contrast with EPIC:
Once EPIC has been more comprehensively developed, test cases would be needed because empirical evidence would illustrate the aspects of EPIC to emphasise for ensuring success and sustainability. Sensitivity would be needed in field testing because mistakes could cause severe problems for the community and the outside world. At all stages, the community’s needs and long-term sustainability and development processes would need to be factored in to EPIC activities; however, these activities should be part of EPIC’s core anyway.
For EPIC field testing, case studies with relatively high vulnerabilities and relatively little prior investigation are:
Roadside Food Seller (Tongatapu, Tonga): Needed in a DEPICT?
The summary of issues to overcome to make EPIC work is:
Isolation and small size breed vulnerabilities but also provide rewards for those communities. The key challenge is to reap the rewards without letting the vulnerabilities be detrimental. Early intervention and participatory approaches can assist, not only for catastrophe prevention and response, but also for the longer-term development activities necessary for creating and maintaining sustainable communities.
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