September 17, 2013 — Haiti is no stranger to severe weather and natural disasters. In recent years, devastating earthquakes, hurricanes and floods have taken their toll on the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Our neighbors some 700 miles off the Florida coastline are also extremely vulnerable to a common weather threat that can impact their lives and livelihood on a much more frequent basis. You guessed it; that threat is lightning.
Haiti’s St. Helen’s Home (NPFS) and Orphanage has suffered repeated lightning strikes to its facility and is seeking relief from lightning’s wrath. The orphanage compound sits on the top of the highest point in the Kenscoff mountains and is vulnerable to severe thunderstorms and damaging lightning. Lightning has already caused many problems for the orphanage with damaged electronics and equipment. In addition to the electrical problems, lightning poses a serious safety concern for the children—some of who are severely handicapped and disabled.
In a quest for information and help, the orphanage’s volunteer administrator contacted LPI last winter. After a series of emails, conference calls and pledges of support, a volunteer team known as the Building Lightning Safe Communities (BLSC) – Haiti Project “dream team” was formed.
Members of the BLSC Haiti Project team have formed a plan to utilize resources in order to provide a total protection package for the orphanage. Volunteers from the lightning protection industry, the NOAA/NWS Lightning Safety Awareness team and groups including: Roadie Relief, Project Cure, Weather Decision Technology, Music for Relief and One World Futbol.com have pledged to assist with various aspects of the lightning protection project. A three member advance team (Mark Morgan, Guy Maxwell and Mitch Guthrie) traveled to Haiti this past July to survey the orphanage. The advance team is presently outlining the necessary manpower, materials and costs needed to provide a comprehensive lightning protection package for the various facility structures. The total protection package for St. Helen’s will rely on an extended group effort and generous donations of time, talent and resources.
Information about the BLSC initiative, the Haiti Project and the lightning relief dream team member list can be found at www.lighntingsafe.org. Please visit www.lightningsafe.org and contact LPI if your organization or group is able to provide support for this project. Join the Haiti project dream team and help LPI build lightning safe communities!