Efforts to prepare for natural disaster in the Caribbean in Haiti, in particular, have been under way for several years. Disaster reduction conferences have resulted in action plans. Model building codes for seismic and wind engineering have been updated and disseminated. But in Haiti, the combined “disasters” of historic poverty and political instability clearly undermined all the good intentions of the reformers, led by the Association of Caribbean States.

Haiti Needs an Overhaul, and Americans Can Serve as Guides
Photo: BFP Engineers Inc, By Eduardo Fierro

Tragedies such as the one in Haiti have played out time and again across the planet. But this one is different in the eyes of Americans: It is on our doorstep.

The United Nations has its work cut out for it in terms of rebuilding Haiti. The ACS has its work cut out to speed up its disaster-reduction efforts in the region.

The engineering and construction community can play an important role by mobilizing to help both. Engineers are already on the scene doing damage assessment and more, and they are needed over the long term.

The job is a big one, for the region in general, and for Haiti, in particular. It’s not just that Haiti needs a seismic code and a wind code. Haiti needs a complete overhaul that stretches far beyond its poor construction. Haiti needs leaders who can reinvent the country to support economic growth. Only then can Haiti provide jobs for people who for too long have been without food, shelter and basic services we take for granted.

What Haiti needs is a visionary who can guide the process. Any volunteers?