Hotter, Drier, Wetter. Helping you to Face the Future.

Bridging the science of Meteorological Services with Pacific island communities to help them understand the technical aspects of weather related forecasts is just one of the many goals at the core of a project implemented across 14 Pacific islands.

Known as FINPAC, the Finnish Pacific Project funded by the Government of Finland carried out by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), aims to reduce the vulnerability of the livelihoods of Pacific Islanders to climate change by delivering effective weather, climate and early warning services.

As the global community commemorates World Meteorological day on 23, March, the theme of which is Hotter, Drier, Wetter. Face the Future. We take a look at this Pacific island regional project helping National Met Services and island communities to 'Face their future.'
 
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The two key components of FINPAC include providing the National Meteorological Services with the capacity and tools to deliver and communicate weather and climate services in a timely manner to support communities.

FINPAC also involves working with communities to strengthen their ability to use and apply weather and climate information and to develop appropriate plans to address climate related events and disasters. Several countries have been selected to develop Early Warning System Action Plans and Climate and Disaster Response Plans for a selected community, along with these is the development of low cost, low tech activities to help them implement these plans.

Since February this year, the project has undertaken work with different island communities in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

On the Marshall Islands, Jenrok community a population of approximately 2,000 people in an urban settlement have developed an Early Warning System Action Plan through the FINPAC Project.

This was formed in partnership with the National Disaster Management Office, the National Weather Service and the Red Cross Society. It addressed the identified hazards of coastal inundation, typhoons, drought, and fire.

"Based on the feedback received, people in the community were happy with the consultations and the planning. For many it was the first time they were consulted and informed as to how they can work together to address these hazards, so that the response is not only done individually, but done together as a community," said Ms. Christina Leala-Gale, the FINPAC Project Manager.

Jenrok Champions were also identified as part of this activity which will see them play a leading role in implementing the activities and these plans when required.

"We are now working on completing the draft Climate and Disaster Plan which will be ready for the community's input as well as the start of a pilot project as part of this – small, low tech, low cost, sustainable activities to help Jenrok put the plans in to action."

The pilot projects provide assistance to the countries involved through activities that can be sustained and maintained at a very low cost, both financially and technically. Examples of these include providing equipment to support Early Warning Systems such as solar powered radios and loud hailers for the community response teams, VHF Radios and complemented by trainings of response teams and community disaster drills.

Solomon Islands was also the focus of community consultations this year - the Lord Howe settlement next to the Mataniko River in Honiara has been selected as the community to be part of the FINPAC community project. Over 1,000 people currently reside in the Lord Howe settlement which is based close by to the hospital.

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Community consultation with the Lord Howe Settlement in Solmon Islands

During the community consultation, the hazards identified included flooding, cyclones, fire and coastal inundation. The threat of tsunamis has also been identified as a hazard due to the limited lead time available for preparation. Partners are now working to help develop an Early Warning System and a Climate and Disaster Response Plan for these hazards to help the Lord Howe community strengthen their response to these.

While working on community Early Warning Systems and, Climate and Disaster Response Plans, FINPAC also works towards strengthening the communications capacity of National Met Services so they can share information through the media so that people can understand and respond.

Training sessions to achieve this with national media and Met staff were held in the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu this year, followed by the formation of Media Plans for the Met Service.

"This is also a crucial part of this project, although it is only the start, more training needs to be held often and continuously to really make a difference," said Ms. Leala-Gale.
Van1Media and communications training with Naitonal Media and Met Staff of Vanuatu

"The FINPAC Project is happy to be the catalyst for ongoing training that will bridge the media and the Met Service and Disaster Management Offices so that when communities hear weather forecasts or warnings on the radio or on TV, they will be able to understand, and prepare."

Similar training has also been conducted in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Other activities that are happening through FINPAC include the introduction of the SmartMet, a software tool that helps forecasters to relay information to their national audiences in user-friendly formats.

In the three years FINPAC has been underway, it has also helped bridge many partners and stakeholders to achieve outcomes that will help benefit Pacific islanders, this includes the Red Cross National Societies, Met Services, Disaster Management Offices, Media, and the different relevant partners at national level.

"This project has shown that these partnerships really work well," said Ms. Leala-Gale.

"What stood out for me was has been the feedback we have received from Solomon Islands. We learnt from their Red Cross Society, that while they carry out much disaster reduction work with the communities, this was their first time to work with the Met Service. It wasn't until FINPAC was formed and underway in their country that they realised the crucial, technical role the Met Service plays in this area. Because of this project they will now continue to work together."

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The FINPAC Project ends this year after four years in action, with all of the countries having completed various components of the project by the end of the year.

"The work undertaken by this project has been significant, and has achieved much on so many different levels and in so many different ways. Once this has come to an end, we really look forward to seeing the impacts from FINPAC as our Pacific islands face their future."
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