Field Ready's Hurricane Irma Response in the US Virgin Islands
Hurricane Irma has been the most powerful hurricane recorded in the Atlantic. The destruction began in the Caribbean when Irma’s winds were a Category 5, the strongest measure on the hurricane wind scale.
The losses from Irma are still being quantified, however we know that lives, property and critical infrastructure have been lost in over ten countries. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced. In many places, power has been lost. With the loss of power and infrastructure, communication is a major challenge.
Our campaign (Updated 11 October)
The Field Ready team has now completed its assessment in the USVI and has proposed actions to deliver relief to the community. Read on for more information; and please share this update widely! We are seeking additional funding with grant partners for up to $250,000 - so please let us know if your company, church group, great friends or others would like to contribute!
The goal of this program is to meet the relief needs of vulnerable people affected by the recent hurricanes and help build their resilience in the recovery and reconstruction period.
To accomplish this goal, we have two objectives during the pilot project period:
1. Directly make/manufacture items of immediate and long-term usefulness in the relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts
2. Empower hurricane-affected people through skills building and problem solving
To accomplish these objectives, Field Ready is working in US Virgin Islands (USVI), where people are struggling without shelter, food and water. Island infrastructure has been destroyed in many cases. The lack of power has made it very difficult for vulnerable families who have no communications, no way to pump water from underground cisterns, no refrigeration and fans in the extreme heat. Many isolated communities in the USVI are still cut off from distribution sites and other services due debris and power lines blocking roads.
The rapid assessment conducted in late September identified the need power as a critical need, particularly for vulnerable families. Working with our local partner, My Brother’s Workshop (MWB), Field Ready developed concept to address this need using locally sourced materials. A crucial piece of this pilot includes teaching local people which will empower them to meet their needs directly. We expect completion of this pilot phase to enable us to scale our approach.
Extending beyond the pilot phase, we will carry out a multi-faceted project made up of several program components. Each of these elements includes a strong focus on making and manufacturing critical items and training others to do so over a period of up to one year. On the ground, we will foster partner and community trust by using common participatory techniques building on experience working in similar situations.
The program would have two major components – manufacturing and capacity building for our local partner.
Manufacturing mobile solar units - The proposed unit is buildable, safe, stackable, plug-and- play, rapidly deployable, sustainable, and can be accessorized according to post-disaster needs. It is mobile enough to be carried by two adults, and is self-contained. It provides a 24/7 source of power that does not require fossil fuels or expensive generator maintenance. The design is based upon materials available in the USVI, and according to the needs and expressed desires of vulnerable island residents who lack power.
Many upscale homes and businesses in the USVI have solar panels as an alternative to the high price of fossil fuel on the islands. However, scores of solar panels were damaged in the hurricanes and are now being discarded and/or replaced. Thus, the most expensive component of the unit is already found on the island post-hurricane: damaged solar panels that are still able to convert sunlight into power that can be stored in an ordinary car battery or used directly via an inverter, with some simple wiring and securing.
Upcycling damaged solar panels also contributes to island clean-up, which is one of the essential steps to recovery in the USVI.
The portable units would be able to power essential items, including:
• Community charging stations for portable devices.
• Wi-Fi hotspots
• Portable refrigerators for medical purposes (insulin, etc)
Community collaboration - Collaborating with My Brother’s Workshop, a St. Thomas-based non-profit with 10 years of experience working with at-risk youth, Field Ready would empower MBW to train youth to assemble, install, and perform maintenance on the mobile unites. This would also enable local youth to build vocational skills in electricity and carpentry that can be used beyond post-disaster, contributing to further resiliency for the USVI. In addition, most materials can be sourced locally.
The ultimate impact of our approach will:
1) Assist thousands of disaster-affected people through the making of mobile solar units
2) Leave in place equipment and, importantly, an ability to reproduce new supplies
3) Increase people’s resiliency by addressing immediate social needs and passing on new skills that will be useful in an area prone to hurricanes and tropical storms
Support is needed to solidify these results and allow us to scale up in the region and assist as many hurricane impacted survivors as possible.
To achieve this program, Field Ready is seeking $250,000 in grant funding. Thus far, Field Ready has raised roughly $30,000 in response to this rapidly evolving response. Funds will be used to cover personnel and associated costs, equipment, training and making supplies in the affected disaster areas.
To see how Field Ready worked during its assessment in the USVI, check out the video above; or to view how Field Ready recently mobilized to support the people of Nepal, please go to: https://vimeo.com/169801926 .
Learn more about Field Ready and its current projects at www.fieldready.org .
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