DiMAG sets future commitments

PANAMA, December 2008. The Disaster Mitigation Advisory Group (DiMAG) is an informal, multidisciplinary group of Latin American and Caribbean experts that provides independent advice to PAHO/WHO and its Member States on a variety of issues related to disaster mitigation and risk reduction in the health sector. It was the DiMAG that originally conceived the idea of the Hospital Safety Index, which is gaining acceptance as a global tool for assessing the likelihood that a hospital can remain functioning in disaster situations.

   At its recent annual meeting, the DiMAG made recommendations on activities to pursue in the coming year and beyond, including developing a sustainable strategy for the Hospital Safety Index that includes training as well as a step-by-step guide for decision makers to improve safety in the design and construction of health facilities.

   The Disaster Mitigation Advisory Group (DiMAG) is an informal multidisciplinary group of Latin American and Caribbean experts that provides independent advice to PAHO/WHO and its Member States on a variety of issues related to disaster mitigation and risk reduction in the health sector. It was the DiMAG that originally conceived the idea of the Hospital Safety Index, which is gaining acceptance as a global tool for assessing the likelihood that a hospital can remain functioning in disaster situations.

   At its recent annual meeting, the DiMAG made a number of recommendations that will be followed up in the coming year and beyond. Below are some of the issues debated at the two-day meeting, held in Panama on December 11-12, 2008.

• There are inconsistencies among existing regional seismic hazard maps, thereby limiting their effective use. Consensus should be sought for Caribbean Basin seismic hazard maps. DiMAG recognizes the work currently being undertaken by the Caribbean Development Bank and looks forward to new Caribbean seismic hazard maps for design purposes.

• A strategy should be developed to sustain current efforts to apply the Hospital Safety Index, including training the evaluators who use the Safe Hospitals Checklist to assess health facilities. The Checklist will be revised for use in smaller health facilities by reviewing the weighted formulas in the Safety Index Calculator. DiMAG will also promote the creation and use of learning tools and methodologies.

• Information on the ‘turn-key process’ and detailed terms of reference for check consultants will be developed and published in a language that can be used by both technicians and decision makers. This will include information related to accreditation and application of the Hospital Safety Index within 12 months of construction, especially when check consultants are not being used. In addition, the following will be undertaken:

      --  Detailed terms of reference for a variety of projects.

      -- Training sessions for prospective check consultants

• DiMAG proposes that future safe hospitals measures take into account the risks associated with climate change (e.g. flooding, stronger hurricanes and storm surge) and increase awareness regarding these hazards.

• Information will be collected and published to demonstrate the need for strong motion sensors in hospitals and health care facilities located in highly vulnerable areas.

• A fire safety guide for hospitals will be developed and published and will include procedures for evacuation exercises, as part of the hospital preparedness program.

• A step-by-step, non-technical guide will be developed for the political level and decision makers to promote integration and use of existing tools in the design and construction of hospitals and health facilities.

• PAHO and DiMAG will encourage and lend support to the June 2009 IStructE—Caribbean Division Conference on Safe Hospitals.

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