In this study a systems approach is used to evaluate community responses and perceptions to natural hazards following Hurricane Lenny, which impacted the entire Eastern Caribbean between 17th and 20th November, 1999. Drawing on disaster evidence from various researchers a conceptual framework is developed in which a community is viewed as an open system interacting with other systems across several levels and scales, from local to global. Within this framework, physical and environmental factors determine the nature of the hazard event and site-specific physical vulnerability, while socio-economic and political factors determine the resource base and networks available for responding to the hazard or resilience. These factors combine to influence perception to hazards in the environment and the responsive decision-making process. The framework was applied to evaluate response and perception in the most severely affected community in Grenada. Comparisons were also made of response and recovery efforts observed in other islands. The community in Grenada exhibited an autonomous response mode, relying on their own resources, kinship ties, and non-governmental organisations to successfully reconstruct their lives. In other Islands that were affected by the same event, community response and recovery efforts were led by national government agencies. More than two years after the event, a number of communities have not been permanently relocated and are still trying to rebuild their lives. The role that community-based organisations and non-governmental organisations can play in disaster management in the Caribbean has been over-looked in present national and regional strategies. Their involvement in the process seems to be the way forward for bridging the disaster-development gap. The study concludes that a paradigm shift needs to occur in the present approaches to disaster management in the Caribbean, away from a top-down response ethic and towards bottom-up approaches that are inclusive and/or participatory.
disasters management and planning Natural hazards small states vulnerability