Guatemala is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes because of its location between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. But communities vary in their level of awareness and in their knowledge of flooding disaster mitigation and response. In 2009, the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) tasked ICMA with assessing the disaster readiness of communities on the country’s Pacific Coast and developing a training and exercise program for them.
Based on previous experience in the country, ICMA gathered information from dozens of stakeholders and from national and regional entities. A critical area of the assessment gathered information on interagency coordination and established communications networks and systems, a natural focus based on ICMA’s promotion of a networked approach to emergency management in the United States.
In the course of this short-term project (October 2009-February 2010), ICMA conducted focus groups in selected communities with key stakeholders from national, departmental, and local governments, the private sector, citizens, and local organizations (known locally as CODEDES, COCODES, and COMUDES) to assess local capacities and working knowledge of flood mitigation and response. These focus group sessions enabled the ICMA team to identify the information and knowledge gaps with respect to local response capacities and develop an appropriate training program for the communities.
With this information in hand, ICMA identified class training topics and developed a training schedule, along with exercise scenarios. Topics included such subjects as dissemination of early alert systems, management of temporary shelters, communication methodologies, management of food and supplies, participation of schools, and coordination among local and national entities.