NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas, through the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, launched the first National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment, a year-long programme to measure disaster preparedness and risk.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon K Peter Turnquest delivered the keynote address at the NDPBA kick-off ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton held last Wednesday, June 26, 2019.
The new disaster management initiative also featured key speakers including the Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell, the U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Stephanie Bowers, and Dr. Erin Hughey of the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Disaster Center, among several other experts.
Following several consecutive years of serious hurricane impacts, The Bahamas launched the NDPBA research disaster risk, preparedness, and climate change in partnership with Pacific Disaster Center (PDC)—a University of Hawaii applied science and research center.
The Deputy Prime Minister upheld the importance of the partnership, describing the yearlong NDPBA programme as an imperative step towards risk reduction and true sustainability for The Bahamas.
“We recall that within the past few years alone, The Bahamas has been seriously affected by at least three major hurricanes—all category four storms or above. The impact of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, and Irma on The Bahamas has been reported by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to cost approximately eight hundred and twenty million dollars,” he said.
The Deputy Prime Minister emphasized that such a significant cost to an economy like The Bahamas is unsustainable. “Through the NDPBA partnership, The Bahamas and PDC will work together to address the unique disaster risks and sustainability challenges of small island nations/states. The Baseline Assessment also creates an opportunity for The University of The Bahamas Small Island Sustainability Centre and Hawaii’s Institute for Sustainability and Resilience to collectively study the most pressing questions and emerging threats related to climate change,” he said.
Captain Russell also underscored the importance of the baseline assessment to the overall national disaster plan and the partnerships NEMA has developed over the years.
“As a strong nation of united family islands, The Bahamas has leveraged its culture of resilience over hundreds of years to adapt to and shape its changing environment. Through this longstanding partnership with PDC and the Baseline Assessment program, The Bahamas can take the next step in its journey of growth to address the challenges that we have yet to face,” he said.
Captain Russell added that NEMA has partnered with regional and international agencies for decades to enhance mitigation, response, and recovery capabilities with the aim of long-term national resilience.
“Over the past 10 years, the partnership with PDC has helped to establish a brand new National Emergency Operations Center, with trained and effective staff; it has helped to implement the policies and protocols to effectively utilize this resource; to improve communication between islands; and most importantly, to support our brothers and sisters on the family islands,” said Captain Russell.
Such were similar sentiments echoed by U.S. Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires Stephanie Bowers, who, during her opening ceremony remarks said: “This international model for cooperation demonstrates how we can leverage shared resources and expertise to build capacities and strengthen stability. This initiative brings together our governments, universities, and public-private sector partnerships to cooperate on one of the most challenging issues of our time. By bringing together experts from across sectors, we can bridge gaps in knowledge to reduce risk and find solutions to responding to crises.”
And according to Dr. Hughey said the National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment (NDPBA) is a program started by PDC to help nations build resilience at the national and sub-national level and to engage experts from across sectors to take part in lowering disaster risk.
She noted that PDC is located in one of the world’s most remote island chains and regularly faces extreme threats from tropical cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, flash floods, landslides, and wildfires.
“Out of necessity to protect its own community, PDC has developed some of the most advanced disaster management technology, science, and research methodologies which are applicable not only on the Hawaiian Islands and in the continental United States, but in multiple contexts everywhere around the world,” said Dr Hughey.
The kick-off workshop and knowledge exchange for the baseline assessment was co-hosted by NEMA, the Bahamas National Geographic Information Systems Centre (BNGISC), and PDC with funding and support from the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM).
The event drew participation by nearly 100 representatives from NEMA’s Emergency Support Function groupings across public, private, academic, and nonprofit sectors. It was the beginning of cross-sectoral engagement planned throughout the assessment. Using scientific methodologies, the programme will also support The Bahamas’ Vision 2040 National Development Plan and international commitments to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
This article was written by Lindsay Thompson – Bahamas Information Services.