Beyond the technology

Enhancing safety through risk reduction: Using KoboToolbox data to build community resilience in Barbados

Across the world, remote communities are facing an array of risks, from devastating natural disasters to everyday health and safety hazards. Throughout the Caribbean, extreme weather that produces flash floods is also causing a rise in temperatures and droughts, increasing the risk of fires. In Barbados, the Bajan Fire Fighters’ Network (BFFN), a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to supporting local communities and delivering humanitarian assistance to those in need, is using risk mitigation and fire prevention strategies to build community resilience and reduce demand on emergency response services.

Using data collected with KoboToolbox, BFFN is working to enhance safety and strengthen local capacities in communities across the island. In addition to fire response services, the organization engages in collaborative locally-led initiatives to provide welfare assistance, advance community development, and respond to natural disasters and crises. Through the nonprofit’s Community Risk Reduction Campaign (CRRC), volunteers are using KoboToolbox to gather data and conduct risk assessments, prioritizing vulnerable communities. By identifying risks and having access to real-time data monitoring, they can make informed, data-driven decisions to address potential dangers more effectively and help build resilience. The volunteer initiative aims to improve prevention measures by raising awareness of local hazards and sharing information about best practices for public safety.

Volunteers from the Bajan Fire Fighters Charity conducting Community Risk Assessments in the Bridgetown area. © Bajan Fire Fighters’ Network

Since 2023, BFFN has been collecting crucial data to support and inform their CRRC initiatives, including their Smoke Alarm Installation program which aims to increase awareness and strengthen fire prevention. The targeted smoke alarm program focuses specifically on serving the most vulnerable members of communities by ensuring their homes are equipped with smoke alarms. Using KoboCollect in the field, the BFFN team identifies areas in need of early warning devices, manages beneficiary data, and plans the distribution and installation of alarms.

As part of the CRRC programming, community risk assessments are used to generate valuable insights about the types of hazards that can increase the dangers posed to communities, such as derelict buildings, debris, infestations, limited access to fire hydrants, and infrastructure issues that can increase flooding. In addition to exacerbating the risk to communities, these hazards also present challenges for first responders during emergencies. By using KoboCollect for community risk assessments, BFFN can rapidly gather data on safety hazards and create community profiles, enabling them to identify vulnerable areas and mitigate risks.

The ability to quickly identify potential dangers and efficiently distribute resources to address them is critical for building safer communities. With detailed data and crucial insights, BFFN can share information about risks and community vulnerability with relevant organizations and stakeholders, including the Barbados Fire Service, the National Disabilities Unit, and the Department of Emergency Management. Thanks to BFFN’s initiatives, emergency response and service providers have a better understanding of community needs and can more effectively target their interventions.

Through BFFN’s dedication to enriching and enhancing the lives of those they serve, especially the most vulnerable, local communities have a greater understanding of specific risks and concrete actions needed to strengthen their safety and build resilience. The data collected with KoboToolbox is pivotal to BFFN’s efforts to identify potential hazards and to reduce risk through community outreach and prevention activities. By involving community members in the data collection process, BFFN empowers local volunteers with the skills to produce valuable insights about the challenges faced by their communities and to drive data-informed change. To further support risk reduction efforts, BFFN recently participated in the Community Risk Reduction Week (January 15–21, 2024), where they provided educational resources to raise risk awareness in communities across Barbados. Looking ahead, BFFN will continue using KoboToolbox to conduct annual assessments in high risk areas so they can further strengthen local prevention capacities and promote community well-being.

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