On September 18, 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Dominica. The Category 5 hurricane was the most powerful storm to ever hit the island, resulting in 27 fatalities and more than 50 Dominicans still missing. Nearly every home and building on the island were affected, with many damaged beyond repair.
Three weeks after disaster struck, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) contacted Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) for engineering assistance with the recovery effort. EWB-USA’s Engineering Service Corps program, which draws on the expertise of our most seasoned volunteers to meet highly technical requests for support, deployed members Kevin Hagen, P.E. and Mike Paddock P.E., P.S. to assist with disaster recovery.
Hagen previously worked in earthquake-stricken Nepal and Ecuador, where he assisted with building assessment and long-term reconstruction planning. Like Hagen, Paddock is equipped with ATC 20/45 training to help communities assess and rebuild. Paddock’s experience in disaster recovery includes work in Ethiopia and Guatemala.
While in Dominica, the team camped out in the island’s cricket stadium alongside military security forces. “Things are pretty tough for island residents,” said Paddock. “There is no electricity and limited water and shelter.”
Paddock and Hagen’s support on the ground included helping the World Bank perform rapid assessment of roads and bridges. The report produced from these findings will be used to inform pledging at the United Nations-coordinated international donor’s conference taking place in New York in November.
The team is also helping the Dominican Ministry of Housing develop an assessment program for the 30,000 structures damaged by the storm. As part of the program, Hagen and Paddock trained 75 ministry employees on appropriate assessment techniques and methods. The three-day training included classroom study and field visits to allow trainees to practice their new skills.
The trainees’ goal is to complete the structure assessments for the entire country over the next two months to support planning for reconstruction activities.
“Although the communities were heavily impacted, their spirit remains strong,” said Hagen. “It is always rewarding to work with the government and communities to help them build the capacity to help themselves.”
Hagen and Paddock recently returned stateside, and the Engineering Service Corps is deploying two more volunteers in early November for a six-week field assignment. Their tasks will include:
- completing a Housing Standards document and other materials to help homeowners and local builders construct hurricane-resilient structures
- conduct house construction training sessions for local builders, material suppliers and representatives of other aid agencies
- and evaluation of local engineering capabilities for continued rebuilding efforts
Expert volunteer support from the Engineering Service Corps is expected to carry on in Dominica throughout 2018 on an as-needed basis.
Are you a civil engineer interested in helping Dominica rebuild? Learn more about available positions and apply today!