NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Emergency supplies on Grand Bahama have not been replenished since Hurricane Dorian and there is currently insufficient supplies on the island for the next emergency, according to a recent assessment by the International of Migration (IOM).
The Assessment of Preparedness of Emergency Shelters on Grand Bahama and The Abaco Islands for 2020 Hurricane Season outlines the current condition of each emergency shelter, assess operational effectiveness during Dorian, and consider the suitability of each shelter for the 2020 season.
Before Hurricane Dorian made landfall, Grand Bahama had 12 official shelters, concentrated in the Freeport area, with an official capacity of 1,670.
Along with several other unofficial facilities, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people were being shelter.
Eight of the 12 shelters were flooded by the storm surge that covered approximately 60 percent of the island, with three shelters so severely compromised that people were forced to flee them during the storm.
According to the assessment, only seven of the shelters are usable, with a capacity of 950.
“The most significant cause of damage was through the flooding, which forced many people to either flee shelters or seek refuge on balconies or stages of chapels in cramped conditions for long periods,” the report said.
“The flooding destroyed or damaged many facilities including septic tanks, kitchens and toilet facilities, which are in various states of repair and replenishment.
“Additional support for repairs, and improved roofing, windows, shutters and kitchens are required at most shelters.”
The report noted that most shelters on Grand Bahama do not have emergency power, emergency freshwater supplies or water tanks, sleeping cots and blankets, shower facilities, and sufficient fire extinguishers and first aid provisions.
“Much of this was supplied by NEMA and social services in the few days before Dorian landfall on a just-in-time basis from the NEMA supply warehouse in Freeport,” it continued.
“Emergency supplies have not since been replenished, so there are currently insufficient supplies for the next emergency.
“At the very least, emergency equipment and supplies at the NEMA warehouse need to be replenished. Ideally, much of this equipment should be stored at the emergency shelters themselves in secure areas, ready for activation.”
While the management of shelters during the storm was described as “patchy”, the report further noted that in general, Grand Bahama was well organised and well structured.
The assessment outlined 15 recommendations to address the pressing concerns including: creating a mandatory evacuation plan for the storm-ravaged islands; increasing shelter capacity – in the right locations; increasing minimum standards for shelters; conducting more scenario planning, desktop drills, and mass community drills; increasing emergency vehicle options; repairing existing shelters; building multi-purpose shelters; increasing the shelter options for longer-term stays; providing more shelter training to emergency shelter staff; building community preparedness; improving emergency communications system; building an emergency warehouse in The Abaco Islands; re-stocking the central supply store; pre-positioning stock and equipment; and setting up a programme to help support increased self-insurance.