Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response, the Hon. Myles K. LaRoda, met with members of the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) Advisory Committee Monday at the Cecil V. Wallace Whitfield Centre, where, in addition to conducting a further review of the country’s National Disaster Plan and Instructions for Emergency Situations 2022 Document, they were briefed on the findings of the National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment Exercise by Dr. Erin Hughey, Director of Global Operations, the Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC).
Disaster Management officials have been consistently reviewing and updating the country’s National Disaster Plan throughout the year. The Baseline Assessment Exercise was facilitated by the Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC/Global). As an applied research center managed by the University of Hawaii, PDC Global continuously develops new technologies and best practices to help its many global partners – including governments — effectively mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.
Monday’s Meeting, was just one component of NEMA’s and officials in the Office of the Prime Minister’s Disaster Management Unit’s ongoing, year-round preparations ahead of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. State-Minister LaRoda was joined by: Mr. Carl F. Smith, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister’s Disaster Management Unit; Ms. Isla Deane, Under Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister’s Disaster Management Unit; Captain, Stephen Russell, Director, the National Emergency Management Agency; Mrs. Gayle Outten- Moncur, Deputy Director, the National Emergency Management Agency, and Mrs. Lisa Bowleg, Training Coordinator and Operations Manager, the National Emergency Management Agency.
Other attendees included representatives from the Office of the Attorney- General, the Office of the Auditor General, the Bahamas Department of Meteorology, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Public Hospitals Authority, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Social Services, the Ministry of Public Works and the Department of Environmental Health Services were also in attendance.
State-Minister LaRoda applauded the members of the Advisory Committee for their service, adding that disaster preparedness involves the engagement of multiple partners. He said the need for year-round planning to mitigate the effects of disasters and/or emergencies has become “quite necessary” for all islands, but particularly the more remote Family Island communities.
“Hurricane and/or Disaster Preparedness is now year-round,” Mr. LaRoda told the grouping. “You have six months of the Atlantic Hurricane Season and you have the other six months to prepare for when the Season starts. (In the case of Hurricanes) Our storms are getting much more severe and more frequent as a result of the impact of climate change. Seventy percent of the population of The Bahamas actually lives in New Providence, but those communities – such as Abaco, Grand Bahama, and those southern islands that are remote — I am glad to know that NEMA would have started its disaster preparedness in those islands early in the year where we would have trained Administrators and community leaders on how to be prepared. I know for a fact that Captain Russell and his team, along with the Permanent Secretary and his team (at the Office of the Prime Minister’s Disaster Management Unit), would have had ongoing updates, ongoing training sessions with regards to disaster preparedness.”
State-Minister LaRoda told the Advisory Committee members that their work, as with the work of Disaster Managers and Disaster Management Committees across the country, was “significant.” He further applauded the contributions PDC Global has made to the country’s disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts, adding that some of its recommendations will help guide local policy.
“We depend on those individuals who have been in these various capacities to guide us,” the State-Minister said. “Hurricane season is right around the corner and so this is the time of year when most of the planning would be narrowed down. The Pacific group would have been here before. They would have made a presentation and some of their recommendations will help to guide our policy and our regulations as it relates to disaster preparedness.
“As you get together and put your expertise together with regards to our state of readiness and what implementation of procedures we (may) make moving forward, coupled with Pacific Disaster Centre who have done a phenomenal job in providing much-needed information some of that information that is not readily available here — I thank them, and I thank the individuals in this room whom the government is depending upon to advise and make recommendations on our state of preparedness. We know this is something that is ongoing,” State-Minister LaRoda added.