NEMA Director applauds FI teams’ efforts in face of PTC One

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Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response, the Hon. Myles LaRoda (seated centre) addressed Sunday’s Press Conference, informing media personnel and the general public that disaster management officials based in New Providence will inspect those areas of the northwest Bahamas that were affected by the passage of Potential Tropical Cyclone One, “once our pilots are comfortable that the lingering effects of the system would have moved out and they deem it safe for travel.” State-Minister LaRoda said in the interim: “I would have spoken to all of the Members of Parliament out of Grand Bahama (including the Minister for West End, Bimini and the Berry Islands), and in Abaco to get their assessments and concerns as it relates to the passage of Potential Tropical Cyclone One. I also spoke with a few of the Local Government officials in the affected areas and pledged the government’s assistance and complete cooperation in the aftermath. Also pictured (from left beginning at podium) are: Mrs. Gayle Outten-Moncur, Deputy-Director, NEMA; Mrs. Annette Lunn, Sign Language Interpreter, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development; Mr. Jeffrey Simmons, Acting-Director, The Bahamas Department of Meteorology, and Captain Stephen Russell, Director, NEMA. Seated in foreground is Mrs. Terrece Bootle-Bethel, Department of Local Government. (BIS Photo/Kristaan Ingraham)

The Director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Captain Stephen Russell, (Sunday, June 5), applauded the “all-around” efforts of Family Island Administrators, local government practitioners, residents, individual Family Island Disaster Consultative Committees and non-governmental organizations in the northwest Bahamas, for their collaborative efforts before, during, and after the passage of Potential Tropical Cyclone One.

Captain Russell said the collaborative responses by the local communities to the effects of Potential Tropical Cyclone One, is an indication of how the country’s use of a Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy can help to minimize some of the potential impacts of disasters and/or emergencies.

“Comprehensive Disaster Management is a shared responsibility between NEMA, its Emergency Support Functions (ESFs), Family Island Administrators, Local Government Practitioners, Heads of Government Departments, and the Family Island Disaster Consultative Committees,” Captain Russell said. “From what I have heard and seen through our various communication platforms, I was pretty pleased to see how the various communities and the Island Disaster Consultative Committees came together to prepare for the system, and during the event, how they executed the various mitigation measures to minimize impacts in some communities.

“We are a unique country and we must rely on the community efforts of our Administrators, Local Government Council Members, as well as all of the NGOs who are in these areas to assist their communities in preparing for, and responding to any emergencies that may occur (and not necessarily hurricanes) which we saw happen as, while we were preparing for, and dealing with Potential Tropical Cyclone One, we had another incident occurring somewhere else and the teams had to respond. These are the types of communities we are trying to develop throughout The Bahamas, whereby they can respond to whatever may come their way until external assistance can arrive,” Captain Russell added.

Potential Tropical Cyclone One, which later became the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season’s first named storm (Tropical Storm Alex) after it passed The Bahamas, brought heavy rains with it over the northwest Bahamas including the islands of Bimini, Grand Bahama, Abaco, and the Berry Islands. Tropical Storm Warnings for the northwest Bahamas were discontinued and the All Clear given by The Bahamas Department of Meteorology on Sunday, June 5 at 12midnight.

The Potential Tropical Cyclone was responsible for extensive flooding in low-lying areas in portions of the northwest Bahamas. Mr. Jeffrey Simmons, Acting Director, The Bahamas Department of Meteorology, said the majority of the rainfall took place in Grand Bahama where the measurement for rainfall for a 48-hour period – 8am Friday (June 3) to 8am Saturday – was 10.69 inches of rain. Acting Director Simmons said a measurement of rainfall between the hours of 8am Friday through Saturday evening, was 8.6 inches.

Mrs. Terrece Bootle-Bethel, the Department of Local Government, also praised the efforts.

“From the alerts were issued, Family Island Administrators were monitoring the system and they were engaged very early with their Consultative Committees,” Mrs. Bootle-Bethel said. “We have seen some of the impacts, in particular the Grand Bahama area and North Abaco in the forms of photographs. We have seen photographs coming in with the Administrators and the Chief Councillor (North Abaco) clearing out drains (as a result of debris that would have clogged those drains during the passage of Potential Tropical Cyclone One) and that is what Family Island Administrators do. Get on the ground with their consultative committees and conduct thorough assessments on behalf of NEM and report their findings.”

Captain Russell also responded to a question from the media regarding the state of readiness of shelters in the impacted areas, particularly Grand Bahama and Abaco. Captain Russell said monies have been spent to repair shelters in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian – particularly in Grand Bahama and Abaco – based on what was requested, even while plans are underway to construct a multi-purpose shelter/community centre in Abaco and a proposal has been received for the construction of a multi-purpose shelter n Grand Bahama.

“Coming out of Hurricane Dorian in 2019, we got ourselves busy to see how we could assist in bringing the shelters that were impacted on stream. Through one of our donors, the United Sates Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), they pledged $15,000 for every shelter that needed assistance. USNORTHCOM gave $15,000 and the Government of The Bahamas gave $20,000. Based on what they requested, we prepared those shelters. They were all inspected and they were happy and so we had 11 shelters that were repaired in Grand Bahama and there were 2 shelters that were repaired in Abaco based on their requests. Technically we had 14-15 shelters that were ready to go in Grand Bahama if necessary.

“We met with teams from the U.N. and other partners just last week in Abaco to finalize a Plan of Action to get that structure out of the ground. We are looking at that particular shelter as a prototype for shelters we would like to build in strategic locations throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas in the not too distant future. The Links Chapter and The Bahamas Red Cross have put forth a proposal to construct a shelter in Grand Bahama. The same plan for the Abaco model has been shared with them to see how they can modify it or if it suits their purpose. We continue to liaison with The Red Cross and the Links Chapter to see how they can advance that structure for us,” Captain Russell added.

NEMA Director, Captain Stephen Russell, at podium addressing Sunday’s Press Conference held at NEMA’s Headquarters, Gladstone Road. Also pictured to Captain Russell’s right is Mrs. Annette Lunn, Sign Language Interpreter, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development. (BIS Photo/Kristaan Ingraham)