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Conference Stresses Disaster Preparedness

Minister for Works and Transport, the Honourable Neko C. Grant is pictured centre along with Captain Stephen Russell, NEMA's director and several of the participants in the Northern Bahamas Disaster Conference which closed out Thursday at the Our Lucaya Resort. The three day event attracted participants from Bimini, Berry Islands, North Andros, Abaco and Grand Bahama.(BIS Photo/Vandyke Hepburn)

FREEPORT, GB – Works and Transport Minister, the Hon. Neko C. Grant on Thursday reminded residents of The Bahamas that they too have a role to play in disaster management.

Mr. Grant, the Member of Parliament for the Lucaya Constituency on Grand Bahama Island was delivering the closing remarks at the Northern Bahamas Disaster Conference.

The three-day conclave opened at the Our Lucaya Resort on Tuesday and was sponsored by the United States Northern Command and the United States Embassy, while the National Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Centre designed and conducted the training sessions.

NEMA’s director, Captain Stephen Russell, informed that the conference focused on a number of topics including the role of the US Northern Command, the Pacific Disaster Centre, the Role of the MET Office, Disaster Response and Mental Health, Hurricane Preparedness and Infrastructure and more.

Likewise, participants also carried out a case study on the Haiti Earthquake and the Grand Bahama Tornado, as well as a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment.

The three day event attracted senior government and local government officials from Bimini and the Berry Islands, North Andros, Abaco and Grand Bahama, top officials from NEMA based in New Providence, as well as the Red Cross, Department of Social Services, Police, Defence Force and others involved in disaster management.

Addressing the gathering Thursday evening Mr. Grant noted that the staging of the workshop is timely as we approach the mid-point of the hurricane season.

He noted that participants had the benefit of learning from sharing experiences with relevant stakeholders about various aspects of disaster or emergency preparedness and response, and they had the opportunity to further review disaster management plans, which now enables them to effectively confront unfortunate events.

“We will all agree that preparing for disasters and managing the impact of these occurrences present challenges for government and relevant coordinating agencies worldwide.

“As an archipelagic nation prone to hurricane activity, the impact of such disasters in The Bahamas has often been spread across one island or several islands.

The importance of this workshop in building capacity in emergency preparedness and response therefore cannot be overemphasised,” he stated.

The Grand Bahama native reminded the gathering that during 2004 and 2005 with the arrival of Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma, residents of Grand Bahama experienced severe to catastrophic weather conditions, and that the damages inflicted by those hurricanes resulted in significant personal loss and financial hardship.

“Five years later, the island has made much progress in its quest to return to its normal state. The repair of damaged infrastructure in the communities adversely affected by the hurricanes has been given priority,” he stated.

He advised that these recovery efforts have included miscellaneous road works, repairs to public buildings and reconstruction of cemeteries.

The country’s Works and Transport Minister was pleased to point out that most recently the government has moved with the construction of the Eight Mile Rock seawall and elevation of adjoining land to accommodate a new “Fish fry” village and cultural centre.

“We are also seeking to improve our response time in coordination of relief efforts in the aftermath of a disaster.

To this end, action is presently being taken to finalise the transfer of ownership of a parcel of land to the Government of The Bahamas by the Grand Bahama Port Authority.

“The land will facilitate the construction of a warehouse to be utilised by the National Emergency Management Agency.

This will enable local disaster response teams to quickly mobilise in assisting disaster victims in Grand Bahama and the Northern Bahamas through immediate assessment of needs, rational distribution of supplies, and projection of future needs of the affected communities.

“The staff of NEMA and the staff of other relevant coordinating agencies have over the past several years had the benefit of training in supply management procedures which complement these activities.

The knowledge gained during this week’s workshop will further strengthen these efforts,” he stated.

Continuing, the Lucaya MP also used the occasion to remind members of the general public that they too have a role to play.

“You must educate yourselves on the steps to take before and after disasters.

I must also emphasise that this action should note be limited to preparation for hurricanes, but for any other emergency situation that may arise, for it is only through the united effort of every individual prior to such occurrences that we can truly say we are prepared,” he stated.

He also took the opportunity on behalf of the Government of The Bahamas to express sincere gratitude to the United States Office of Defence Cooperation for its financial sponsorship of the workshop and he also acknowledged the joint efforts of NEMA and the Pacific Disaster Centre in designing and conducting the training sessions.

Bahamas Information Services

Posted in Local News

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