"Right now, Honduras is the most-advanced country in the region in terms of emergency management and preparedness," says Lisandro Rosales, Director of the Permanent Contingency Commission of Honduras (COPECO), the organization that coordinates natural disaster preparation in Honduras. "We need to be prepared because we are also the most vulnerable in the region and the 3rd most-vulnerable in the world."
Like much of Central America, Honduras on an active earthquake zone. Active volcanos, landslides, wildfires, and flooding threaten Honduras by land. Tsunamis, hurricanes, and storm surges threaten Honduras from the sea. Honduras also has two huge seaports, at San Lorenzo in the south and Puerto Cortės in the north, that create huge hazardous materials risks.
Managing all of these threats falls under COPECO's purview. It is a tall order for an organization with a $1.5 million budget. In recent years, since taking over as COPECO's director in 2010, Rosales has been able to secure a number of much needed crisis mitigation technology and infrastructure hardware from the international community. In 2012, Spain donated the region's first Doppler weather radar system to Honduras, along with an entire meteorological and seismic monitoring network. The system now covers Honduras, El Salvador, and most of Nicaragua and Guatemala. This year, Denmark donated technology that measures trends in ocean waves along Honduras' Pacific and Caribbean coastlines.
COPECO's growth under Rosales has attracted attention throughout the region. This year, Honduras is serving as President of the Special Commission for Disaster Reduction for the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
"We have a lot to account for," says Rosales, "but with the tremendous support we are receiving from the abroad and the projects we have proposed to the World Bank and other international aid organizations, Honduras will continue to lead the region in emergency management for years to come."