Preparing for Irma

Photo from Cap-Haitien flooding in 2016. Our EkoLakay toilets are intentionally designed to be resilient to natural disasters.

While our hearts are heavy from watching this past week’s climate devastation unfold in frontline communities across Texas, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, we’ve also been keeping a close eye on Hurricane Irma as it heads across the Caribbean.

We’re all still hoping that Irma will veer to the north and fizzle out, but we’re also bracing for the worst here in Haiti. Right now, northern Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic are under a hurricane warning and the rest of Haiti is under a tropical storm warning.

We’re especially concerned about the low-lying urban communities in northern Haiti that are highly susceptible to flooding, even under normal circumstances. As the current forecast for Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city along the northern coast, is calling for 12 inches of rain plus an 8-12 foot storm surge, we’re anxious about severe flooding that is almost certainly going to occur in the neighborhoods SOIL’s EkoLakay serves.

In past flooding events, we found that SOIL’s EkoLakay service was able to provide continued access to safe and dignified sanitation, and we’re determined for that to be the case this time as well.

To prepare for the worst case scenario, our team in Cap-Haitien is busy implementing their emergency response plan:

  • Right now we’re focusing our efforts into helping spread the word about disaster preparedness. SOIL staff are going through especially vulnerable communities along Haiti’s northern coast with megaphones to share news about the incoming hurricane and encouraging people to seek shelter in safer areas.
  • We’re doing what we can to ensure our household toilet service – EkoLakay – will function smoothly throughout the storm. Container collection is happening today and tomorrow morning for all clients and we’ve brought in extra help to our northern Haiti compost site so that we can immediately empty all the containers that come in to ensure they’re ready for redistribution.
  • We’re taking several emergency preparedness steps in the office. We have materials and resources ready to go, including our various vehicles, weather gear, and containers, to ensure that we are able to react as the situation unfolds. We also have activated our internal communication plan to make sure that all our staff are accounted for and can communicate potential emergencies, that the team gets the latest news on the local situation, and so that SOIL can quickly coordinate a response as needed.

SOIL’s Regional Director, Romel Toussaint, was calm this morning as he worked with his staff to implement this emergency plan. As he pointed out, we’re sadly accustomed to extreme weather events and flooding, as Haiti is the third most vulnerable country to climate change and extreme weather in the world. For the latest news on the hurricane, please visit NOAA and follow us on Twitter at @SOILHaiti, where we will be posting updates as we are able.

We are not at this time accepting donations specifically targeted for emergency relief, but SOIL is prepared to assist with the effort and will reach out should the need arise. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t!

Please keep the Caribbean in your hearts today.

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As you can see from this picture of the SOIL truck taking during floods in Cap-Haitien in 2016, SOIL is unfortunately well accustomed to working in difficult circumstances, and we’re bracing for the worst as Irma heads towards Haiti. Photo credit: Tucker Cahill Chambers.

Want to keep reading? Check out these other recent posts on the SOIL blog

SOIL EkoLakay collection service will go on rain or shine. Photo from Cap-Haitien, Haiti, November 2016. Photo credit: Tucker Cahill Chambers


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