Dominica is part of a volcanically and tectonically active ridge formed along the subduction zone in the Eastern Caribbean. The island has eleven potentially active volcanic centers, one of the highest concentrations in the world and is therefore affected by volcanic, geothermal and seismic activity. Southern Dominica is at a high risk of future magmatic eruptions from Morne Anglais, Morne Plat Pays and Morne Micotrin that would generate pyroclastic flows and surges, ash falls, and lahars. The majority of on-land earthquakes are shallow, and the 1998 volcanic swarms were mainly related to the Play Pays volcanic complex -Morne Anglais centre in southern Dominica. Geothermal activity is associated with a very active area that includes the Valley of Desolation, Boiling Lake and the Eastern and Western Hot Springs. An estimated 90% of the population lives within five kilometers of a live volcano. (Seismic Research Unit 2000).
Between 1886-1996, Dominica experienced 59 storms, of which 40 were tropical storms and 19 were hurricanes between Category 1 –3 on the Saffir/Simpson scale. The island experienced 13 years in which there were multiple storms in one year (CDMP, 1996). Storm surges, floods and landslides often accompany these events.
Coastal erosion, along its 148 km of coastline, is a continuous threat to property and communication networks, along with anticipated sea level rise that make the coastal zone particularly vulnerable to beach erosion, loss of habitat for marine life, loss of fresh water aquifers, and damage to coastal infrastructure.
Volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, storm surges, floods, landslides and coastal erosion are potential disaster issues facing the country, given the fact that the majority of the population lives on a narrow coastal plain.
August 1979, Hurricane David resulted in 38 deaths in Dominica; 3000 were treated for injuries. There was also substantial defoliation of the islands forests. The impact was just as dramatic on homes, utilities and agriculture. 1999 brought Hurricane Lenny where sustained damage and rehabilitation costs were estimated at US$140 million.
In 2004 an Earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, caused damage estimated at US$19.1 million and affected19,527 persons. The impact was exacerbated by heavy rainfall from a tropical wave that resulted in land slippage further complicating the relief effort as several villages could only be reached by air transport for several days.
The governmental organisation responsible for disaster reduction is the National Emergency Planning Organisation (NEPO), a broad-based organisation made up of public sector, private sector and NGOs. The Office of Disaster Management (ODM) acts as its Secretariat, the Minister for Lands, Telecommunications, Energy and Ports as Chairman and the National Disaster Coordinator as Secretary. Since the late 1990s there has been a focus on community based disaster preparedness training as a means of empowering communities in the prevention and mitigation of disasters.