The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is leading by example when it comes to preparation in advance of the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season which is expected to be an above- average season with 19 named storms, 9 expected to become hurricanes and 4 forecasted to become major hurricanes.
Those preparations include the completion of a Comprehensive Disaster Management Audit that was conducted by CDEMA (the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency). The aim of the audit was to review the country’s level of preparedness in the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and financial arrangements for disasters. CDEMA has also provided support to NEMA with its warehouse inventory management and logistics programme that will enable the Agency, “to more effectively deal with the tons of solicited and unsolicited relief items.”
The Agency has also agreed in principle with food distributors to make food available on short notice; water distributors to make water available on short notice; shipping companies to provide services as necessary, and airline companies to make their services available as necessary — all to support the national emergency response mechanism.
NEMA, the Department of Meteorology and The Bahamas National Geographical Information Systems (BNGIS) have been working along with various US and UK partners on a Weather Ready Nation (WRN) Programme that will better enable the noted agencies to provide impact-based forecasting, and storm surge modeling – a feature Disaster Managers are hailing as “a huge capability.”
Captain Stephen Russell, NEMA’s Director, said over the past two months, Family Island Districts – “led by administrators and assisted by Council Members, Heads of Government departments and knowledgeable locals” — have been meeting to review their local Comprehensive Disaster Management Plans.
“It is our aim to finalize this activity this week so that the Plan can be approved for implementation very soon,” Captain Russell added. Furthermore, the Agency continued its efforts to strengthen partnerships with the Urban Renewal Commission, the National Neighbourhood Crime Watch Council, and The Bahamas National Council for Disability.
Through these partnerships — NEMA continues to implement its Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, a programme that educates community volunteers about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and train them in basic disaster response skills.
Over the past three months, the Agency has been working with partners from the United States Northern Command and the Pacific Disaster Center in planning and executing our annual table top exercises titles: “Restoration Island Cays.” Over the past week an exercise was conducted with Family Island Disaster Consultative Committees to test their various systems. A national simulation exercise is scheduled for the month of June.
The Agency, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, met in a series of meetings with officials from the United States’ and the United Kingdom’s Governments respectively to finalize Status of Force Agreements in the event there is the need for external military assistance as a result of a disaster. NEMA’s Disaster Management Committee and Emergency Support Function groups have also commenced their series of planning meetings to ensure that all groups are able to perform their functions in an efficient and cost-effective manner prior to, during, and in the aftermath of an emergency or disaster.
Addressing a Press Conference held at the National Emergency Management Agency’s Headquarters, Gladstone Road, to launch National
Disaster Preparedness Month (May will be observed as National Disaster Preparedness Month under the theme: “Strengthening Community
Readiness for a Better Tomorrow”) Captain Russell said NEMA, the Ministry of Finance, and the Department of Meteorology, over the past week, have held meetings with officials from the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facilities (CCRIF) to review the current insurance policy, and to examine the best possible options before renewing the policies.
“The Shelter Emergency Support Function group,” Captain Russell continued, “has been spearheading the task of having all shelters throughout The Bahamas inspected to determine which facilities will be available for this season. Over the past year, as many of you may be aware, through our U.S. military partners, NEMA was able to acquire a mobile shelter system which can accommodate some 400 persons. The system also comprises showers and toilets and a field kitchen.”
The NEMA Director said the Agency’s preparations commenced even prior to 2022. “Over the past year, additional Flood Water Rescue equipment have been transported to 11 islands where teams have been trained in the past. Over the past year, VHF radios and Repeaters Systems have been installed in 16 communities to support local community emergency communications.
“NEMA and our partners have reviewed the Coroner’s Report following the investigation after Hurricane Dorian, and plans are being developed to more efficiently and effectively care for the deceased, God forbid, in the aftermath of a disaster,” Captain Russell said.