EDITOR, The Tribune.
I was surprised by the reaction of many to the recent near obliteration of Abaco and the ravaging of Grand Bahama by hurricane Dorian.
Many said they could have never imagined such devastation could have taken place, but how could that be?
How could so many have forgotten the devastation Katrina wreaked on Louisiana? The pictures of human carcasses floating in flood waters is firmly etched on my mind.
Or how could people forget the devastation of Ragged Island and multiple direct hits Grand Bahama sustained or the damage wreaked in the southern Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico just last year?
No, I believe people knew fully the potential devastation a hurricane could bring but decided to pre-emptively deny it could happen here. It is this kind of denial that has not allowed this country to be ready to execute plans and contingencies that should have already been in place, and this is something that must be addressed.
There are many stories of heroic individuals and organisations that were able to spring into action, risking their own lives to render aid to their neighbours and relatives during an active hurricane, but where was NEMA or the RBDF? What plans were in place to ensure lines of communication were intact during the storm?
Why was ZNS broadcasting people in distress when those calls should have gone through NEMA to triage and coordinate rescue with local resources?
Maybe NEMA’s role is so super secretive that a part of it is to be heard but not seen or felt!
Training makes all the difference in the world. This is why experienced doctors don’t faint or start crying in medical emergencies and police, firemen and military personnel run toward danger.
Those who lead disaster relief planning and logistics should have experiential training as well.
Consider that the UK dispatched a ship from the Royal Navy from June 2019, simply because it is hurricane season, to sit in the Caribbean and render assistance to any island that might be affected by hurricanes.
That ship was equipped with hurricane supplies, a helicopter and specialist crew to aid in carrying out their anticipated duties.
That ship was able to get to Marsh Harbour on September 3 and begin rendering aid and supplies before our own RBDF.
The US Coast Guard was able to fly helicopters into and then from Andros to aid in evacuating citizens and residents in need of urgent medical assistance to Nassau from September 3 as well.
Samaritans Purse was able to bring in water, medical and hurricane supplies, a mobile hospital with capacity for 40 patients, staffed with 16 doctors and an emergency room that could see 100 patients per day. They also brought in filtration units that could convert seawater into fresh water!
Where were the RBDF and NEMA? While I was watching organised efficiency in action I was only hearing talk from our local “experts”.
Think about the fact that a foreign organisation could get doctors with the necessary equipment needed to begin offering basic medical service to residents of this country faster than the Ministry of Health, NEMA and the RBDF could.
I always thought the purpose of planning for worse case scenarios was to ensure critical pieces of equipment and staff with proper training would be available to speedily and efficiently execute predetermined plans, apparently not!
This is mind boggling to me and shows how much work there is to be done by those to whom we entrust our lives and safety at critical times. There is so much more to say, but time and space would not permit.
This is important because hurricane season is still here and will continue annually for the foreseeable future. The possibility of more misfortune is in the cards and this country deserves more than having local experts who seem to be learning on the fly, comfortable with theory, but sorely lacking in execution and logistical skills. But, I guess having a plan to rely primarily on the assistance of our foreign friends and neighbours is better than no plan at all!
September 6, 2019.