IDB backs mandatory evacuation protocol

IDB backs mandatory evacuation protocol
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) logo

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — It is “due time” for a mandatory evacuation protocol to be established in The Bahamas, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

In a newly released 218 page report titled, “The Assessment of Affects and Impacts of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas”, the bank underscored the official death toll and the number of persons that remain unaccounted for after the passage of Hurricane Dorian.

“It is due time for a mandatory evacuation protocol to be established,” the bank stated.

The report continued: “It is worthy to note that the Prime Minster of Bahamas has recently proposed amendments in the form of a new bill to the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act.

“The bill seeks to empower the Prime Minister to make evacuation orders, curfews and restrictions of movement in certain areas for a specific period, for the protection of people. Additionally, under the proposed changes, where an evacuation order is in effect and residents within the specified area or island have not evacuated, without a justifiable reason, could be liable to a US$500 fine or one month in prison, or both.”

The IDB said that before making evacuation mandatory, it is also necessary to have provisions in place that guarantee shelter for all those in need, as well as the conditions that trigger the mandatory evacuation.

The report also noted that given the frequency and magnitude of hurricanes affecting The Bahamas, an annual comprehensive review and evaluation of all buildings used as shelters, preferably before the start of the hurricane season should be undertaken.

“This should be done to monitor the integrity and suitability of the infrastructure and identify any damage that can be repaired before the hurricane season, for their safety during the hurricane, which could potentially put people at risk and increase the number of affected or deceased persons.”

It continued: “It is necessary to assess the pertinence and feasibility of building new shelters. This analysis should consider the number of shelters needed to house each island’s population, determine mandatory safety and accessibility considerations, and be aligned with shelter and building codes.

“However, given the financial constraints faced by the country and the vast amount of reconstruction needs, it is also recommended to identify other structures that could function as shelters, such as community centers, and determine mandatory safety conditions and conduct periodical infrastructure checks.

“There is also an increased need for more awareness raising and sensitization for the population of Bahamas to negate the cultural mindset that there are limited risks associated with these types of events.

It read: “A common sentiment that was heard throughout the assessment, was that people did not anticipate such a devastating impact from the hurricane which was associated with storm surge and high intensity winds that pounded the islands for two days. Even though NEMA was very proactive with their warnings and updates via newspaper, radio, television and social media there is the need for strong public information campaigns to sensitize the population to the danger of these events. These campaigns should also be in different languages, for example in creole, since a larger number of Haitians were affected.”

The IDB also noted that based on official reports from government entities responsible for emergency coordination and management, there were 67 confirmed deaths and 282 people still missing, as of 18 October, 2019.

There were more than 200 related injuries recorded by the health authorities in the week following the storm’s passage.