IOM study: Mass evacuation plan needed for disaster-hit islands

IOM study: Mass evacuation plan needed for disaster-hit islands
Image of Grand Bahama taken from IOM report.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government must create a credible mass evacuation plan for Grand Bahama and Abaco for the 2020 Hurricane Season, according to a new study by the International of Migration (IOM).

The IOM led assessments on the preparedness of the islands’ emergency shelters.

The report titled, Assessment of Preparedness of Emergency Shelters on Grand Bahama and The Abaco Islands for 2020 Hurricane Season, warns there is insufficient shelter capacity for another storm on the two Dorian-ravaged islands and further concludes islands are underprepared for the 2020 Hurricane Season.

It further outlines the current condition of each emergency shelter, assess operational effectiveness during Dorian, and consider the suitability of each shelter for the 2020 season.

“The expectation is that a significant number of residents of Grand Bahama and The Abaco islands will attempt to evacuate next time a hurricane warning is raised,” the report stated.

“Our understanding is that there is currently no credible plan to evacuate over 70,000 people from Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands in a short time window and provide shelter for them at the evacuation destination, most likely New Providence.

“This is due to capacity constraints on aircraft and boats as well as the absence of a plan and personnel to manage such a process.

“A credible mass evacuation plan needs to be compiled.”

The assessment advised that transport options owned by the Bahamas Government, Bahamian companies, assets of governments of local nations including the United States, and foreign commercial operators, for example, such as airlines and cruise ships  Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

“All of this needs to be planned and arranged in advance,” the report urged.

“In addition to organising logistics, communication will be an essential component as well as strong community organisation, as illustrated by the mass evacuation in Orissa in India in May 2019 before cyclone Fani (Al Jazeera, 2019).

“This can be offset to a certain extent by convincing people that they don’t need to evacuate unless a mandatory evacuation order is issued. This can be done by underlining the risks and how they are addressed by the governments’ plan.”

The 14 other recommendations made in the assessment include: 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.

Meteorologists expect the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season – which runs from June 1 through November 30 – to be another busy year with at least three major hurricanes.

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