September 16, 2019
Over the past two weeks, our country has been through a traumatic experience dealing with the impact of the second strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic and the strongest hurricane ever recorded in The Bahamas.
Through it all, the National Emergency Management Agency has coordinated a coalition of governmental and non-governmental partners who have been working diligently to get resources to the people and the places that need them most.
I have been updating you on the progress achieved in the different areas of the emergency management response efforts. This week, I want to take a moment to provide an overview of the stages of emergency response efforts and where we are in this process.
After a disaster there are typically three major phases in the emergency management response effort:
• Phase 1: Immediate Response
• Phase 2: Recovery
• Phase 3: Reconstruction.
We are currently nearing the end of the first phase - the immediate response. Under this phase, we have carried out activities such as search & rescue, rapid damage and needs assessments, and the provision of first aid. We are also opening and managing temporary shelters for those left homeless, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to the people affected.
As the immediate response phase winds down, and there is no longer an immediate threat to peoples’ lives, we are starting to move into the second phase - recovery. During this phase we will focus on restoring basic services and lifelines, even on a temporary basis. This includes restoring the road network and other essential facilities including bridges, airports, ports and helicopter landing sites.
The final phase is reconstruction. In this phase the government will have completed a more precise assessment of damage and needs. The focus during this stage will be on rebuilding infrastructure on the islands and restoring the livelihoods of the people affected by Hurricane Dorian.
ANNOUNCEMENT ON SEARCH AND RESCUE
At today’s briefing we discussed Search, Rescue and Recovery operations coordinated by NEMA with the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other international civil-military partners.
Together, we would like to reassure the public that as long as The Bahamas has security forces and technical experts on the ground, we would continue to provide on scene, rescue response for those in need.
There are several international protocols that guide the timelines associated with calling off search and rescue; however, NEMA has decided that as long as we have assets on the ground in the areas impacted by Hurricane Dorian, our local authorities will play a dual role: First, to lead on scene rescue response, and second, to assist in the recovery and reconstruction process.
Our police officers and defence force officers are committed to this mission, so we continue to encourage the public to let us know the locations of individuals who may be in need of immediate life saving food supplies and support, or evacuations. In particular, there may still be individuals and groups in remote areas that we are not aware of.
ACKNOWLEDGING PARTNERS - CERT TEAMS
At this time I would like to thank the Bahamian first responders who sprung into action rescuing neighbours when the floodwaters were still consuming their communities. We refer to these first responders as Community Emergency Response Teams or CERT teams. They are on the front line of the storm, and they use whatever resources they have at their disposal - jet skis and boats - to provide immediate life saving action.
While we don’t know the names of all of these local heroes as yet, we have seen their faces online and on national and international broadcast media, and as we move forward with our relief effort, we want to take the time to say thank you.
Wherever you are, whether you continue to participate in the relief effort or are recovering with your loved ones, we say thank you for your valiant service to the community.
ACKNOWLEDGING PARTNERS - USAID
We also want to say thank you to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to partner with NEMA at the request of The Bahamas Government. This team included 57 search and rescue members and four canines from the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue, along with a small team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and dozens of USAID disaster experts.
While 48 members of the DART continue to assist NEMA, the search and rescue team has completed its deployment, and we would like to thank them for their support and collaboration in these difficult times. During their ten-days on the ground, the team searched more than 1,000 houses and buildings. They also assessed structural damage to these buildings—including schools, health clinics, police and fire stations, and stores—as well as bridges, to determine whether they were safe for people to return.
As the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue and the Los Angeles County Fire Department depart, we want to say thank you, while emphasizing that as long as The Bahamas has local security forces and technical experts on the ground, we will continue to provide on scene rescue response for those in need.
Captain Stephen Russell, Director, NEMA
Carl Smith, NEMA Spokesperson
Commodore Tellis Bethel, Commander, Royal Bahamas Defence Force
Anthony Ferguson, Commissioner, Royal Bahamas Police Force
Rob Jenkins, Team Leader, USAID