NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The National Emergency Management Agency said its approach to hurricane awareness and management will take on a more virtual strategy as it urged the public to prepare for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
In a statement today, NEMA said it planned to carry out its mandate – which is ensuring that there are adequate preparedness and mitigation measures, and response and recovery mechanisms — in the midst of the fight against COVID-19.
The agency said inspection of designated emergency shelters is nearing completion.
“Leaders of the Emergency Support Function groups and the disaster consultative committees have met virtually to discuss the level of readiness in all sectors,” the statement read.
“Moreover, Family Island disaster committees headed by Family Island Administrators are also coordinating community efforts for the upcoming hurricane season.
The organization said the theme for this season is: “Building A Disaster Resilient Bahamas”, and listed its campaign hashtags #2020HurricaneSeasonPrepareYourSpace and #FightCOVID-19.
NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell said: “We are still very much aware of the 2019 Hurricane Season, which saw Hurricane Dorian as an extremely powerful and devastating Category 5 Hurricane that became the most intense storm on record to hit The Bahamas. It is also regarded as the worst natural disaster in our country’s history.”
Dorian left most structures severely damaged or destroyed in its wake with an estimated $3.4 billion in damage and losses. Thousands were left homeless and some were swept out to sea; there were 74 official deaths.
“So, as we prepare for the 2020 Hurricane Season, which spans June 1 to November 30, several major forecasting centres are predicting a more active than usual season,” Russell said.
Based on Colorado State University predictions, the Bahamas Department of Meteorology has projected an above average 2020 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season. There are 16 named storms; eight of which are expected to reach hurricane strength; and four expected to develop into major hurricanes.
NEMA said it was coordinating a joint national hurricane preparedness and response plan as part of the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, along with its sister agency the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA).
The agencies will also partner with other state organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations, in order to maximize all resources available during the season, the release stated.
The DRA launched its Small Home Repair Programme web portal, focused on assisting residents of Abaco, the Cays and Grand Bahama with temporary housing and home repairs, on February 10.
In an update today, NEMA said the 2,820 people had completed the full registration process.
“Of the 2,820 homeowners registered, 1,920 homeowners were approved: 1,404 for Grand Bahama, and 519 for Abaco,” the statement red.
“There are 433 homeowners who need to submit additional documents for their applications. The DRA is aggressively following up with these people to assist them with the process. There were 252 people who were rejected, as they did not meet the criteria.”
Up to May, NEMA said 1,758 purchase orders have been generated to secure home repair supplies: 491 for Grand Bahama, and 267 for Abaco.
The DRA erected 32 domes in Spring City as temporary residences for displaced residents while they rebuild or repair their homes.
NEMA said forty domes will be issued to East End, Grand Bahama residents, adding more than 100 domes are en route to Abaco for other displaced residents of the mainland and Cays.
The state-of-the-art domes can accommodate four to six people, according to NEMA, which noted the manufacturer guaranteed their use for extreme environments.
The domes are reportedly able to withstand 180-mile-per-hour winds and have a functional life of 40 years to 50 years.
The statement added: “Members of the public are also advised to carry out their hurricane preparedness for their households. Such steps include: inspection and/or installation of hurricane shutters; storage of emergency supplies like water and non-perishable food items; securing important documents in protective shields; keeping medicine in stock; having cash on hand, and other measures.”
Tropical Storm Arthur became the first named storm of 2020 today, forming some two weeks before the formal start of a hurricane season.