While disasters or their impact cannot be prevented, it is imperative that nations arm themselves with the ability to deal with disaster management, said Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, the Hon. Iram Lewis on Tuesday, during the opening of the Bahamas Red Cross and National Emergency Management Agency’s ‘Mass Fatality Management – Initial Virtual Conclave,’ January 26-28, 2021.
The Minister said, “We gather today cognizant of the need to ensure that preparedness and planning remain at the forefront of our disaster management agenda. On September 1st, 2019, Hurricane Dorian devastated the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco. The impacts of this unprecedented hurricane are forever ingrained in Bahamian history.” Among the impacts, he said, was loss of life of persons officially declared dead and others who remain missing or not identified.
“Dorian has provided us with many lessons as we continue to forge our steps along the path of sustainability. Today we are to collectively provide input for ‘Mass Fatality Management’ for adoption to the National Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan. I am eager and hopeful that your discourse of the next three days will be very yielding, and your efforts will be altruistic in its nature.”
Stating that natural and human-made hazards can cause mass fatality, along with those of technological and chemical ones. With climate change and under the threat of intensified hurricanes as was the case with Hurricane Dorian, “we cannot sit idly by and twiddle our thumbs as the world changes environmentally and technologically. We must act!
“Since communities vary in size and resources, there is no minimum number of fatalities for an event to be considered a mass fatality incident. When planning for and responding to mass fatality events, it is the responsibility of emergency managers, healthcare, and fatality management professionals to ensure the respectful and orderly management of deceased persons.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the work of emergency management is distributed across many entities —preparedness and response are no exception. All facets of the profession of disaster management and the Emergency Support Functions must be engaged for response to occur in a practical, holistic, and efficient manner. Today, disaster managers, volunteers, health care practitioners, morticians, and lawyers, are all here to play a role in minimizing the impacts of a hazard. This is truly commendable and proves that when we work together, so much is possible.”
The Minister continued, “Preparedness and response personnel need a fast-action, authoritative, operational, and decision-making approach to their work. They need systems-planning skills, training skills, and technical expertise. NEMA is merely the ‘facilitator’ or ‘coordinator’ in this process. We depend on your specialized knowledge base to help us in this aspect of disaster planning. Both the
‘facilitators’ and the ‘doers’ must be involved— and if they are effectively engaged, the results of ourefforts would be integrated, progressive, coordinated, comprehensive, collaborative, or risk-driven.
These outcomes will undoubtedly correlate to effective and holistic preparedness and response mechanisms. Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot always prevent disasters or their impacts, but we can arm ourselves with knowledge, techniques, and skills to ensure that we fulfill the notion of comprehensive disaster management.”
He concluded by thanking the Bahamas Red Cross Society for organizing the conclave and added, “The role of non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross remains crucial and beneficial to our vision of community resilience and risk management. Our continued cooperation and collaboration are essential as we seek to prepare for, mitigate against, respond to and recover from all emergencies, disasters, and catastrophes.”