PR – Hello everyone, every year, June 1st marks the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season – a second season that would be compounded by a pandemic.
Since the start of this pandemic in 2019, the world has been forced to acclimatise to a new normal. Disaster preparedness has never had more meaning and urgency in our lifetime than during the last fourteen months.
Having been spared the wrath of the record-breaking number of named storms in 2020, scientists again predict an above average season with seventeen named storms, of which 8 are expected to become hurricanes and four, major hurricanes. This prediction reminds us of the need to be even more vigilant in our multi-hazardous environment, made even more complex by the existence of COVID-19. It also reminds us to remain on alert, and work towards the implementation of the strategies that support our disaster management cycle, which speaks to prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation.
As we institute our disaster strategy, we are also looking at the capacity challenges with our response systems. We are cognizant of the fact that COVID-19 has created unique challenges for disaster management, health, security and other response systems. Further, the advent of a hurricane will undoubtedly exacerbate those challenges.
Brothers and Sisters, activating emergency shelters is an anticipated challenge during this pandemic, as traditional determinants of when to issue evacuation warnings have been reassessed in light of COVID-19, resulting in changes to the protocol relating to evacuation or shelter in place.
As a government, we have steered this ship to build resilience among citizens of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique through the many preparatory programmes and activities undertaken by the National Disaster Management Agency. Work to date has included a review of the National Hurricane Plan, the completion of construction of the National Emergency Operating Centres at Morne Jaloux St. George and Belair in Carriacou.
We have also created a Community Resilience Index which will soon be piloted across select communities. Rehabilitation work has also been undertaken on the existing NaDMA warehouse at the SSU camp at Point Saline, along with further enhancement work on the Black Bay District Emergency Operating Centre.
On the sister isles of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, the teams have been in active preparation mode for the season, with the inspection of Emergency Shelters and the identification of vulnerable groups and their locations.
As the most violent storms on earth, hurricanes are fuelled by just two ingredients: heat and water. We therefore need to prepare diligently for this season, as we have done in previous years and even more so, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, an ongoing challenge for the entire world.
Being prepared means that you must listen to the official source for disaster related information, which is the National Disaster Management Agency. We have seen the chaos that can be caused in a climate of misinformation, as exemplified repeatedly during this pandemic. Lives are unnecessarily affected or even lost. NaDMA will continue to ensure transparency and responsiveness this hurricane season and is resolute in its commitment to update the public in a timely manner. We encourage the media, influencers and others to only share information that is disseminated by the National Disaster Management Agency.
We are in constant collaboration with the Ministry of Health, and we have already activated our emergency operations centre to accommodate the COVID-19 safety protocols. Simulation exercises in emergency communication and early warning systems are complete, and equipment testing and servicing have already been conducted. Contact listing and information sharing protocols have also been reviewed.
Consistently over the years, our advice to families has been to have an emergency plan in place to create, or update emergency kits, secure important documents and valuables in safe, waterproof containers, keep medicine in stock, have cash on hand and take the necessary measures to secure pets, homes and surroundings.
Fellow citizens, this is a call to action as COVID-19 has taught us the importance of being your brother’s keeper. In this regard, I encourage you to work with your neighbours to trim overhanging trees, to clean and open drains, start a hazard response team in your Church, identify the vulnerable in your congregation and develop a response plan to be activated if or when impact from a hurricane becomes imminent.
Sports clubs, I encourage you to take the principles of the game to the community and let the same thrill that brings supporters to your game, be the catalyst for saving and protecting lives.
Farmers and fisher folks, you are acutely aware of the vulnerability of your respective livelihoods to this season. I encourage you to put systems in place to ensure lives, livelihoods and properties are protected.
Whatever your sphere of influence, you are a critical link in the chain that will keep this nation safe and protect lives.
I take this opportunity to thank the team of forecasters at the Meteorological office at the MBIA for their partnership, and look forward to their continued collaboration.
I also take this opportunity to salute our volunteers who continue to give their time, talent and resources to the Agency to ensure that the disaster management mechanism functions well. We are proud of, and grateful for the work you do in helping to keep the nation safe.
While we cannot prevent the occurrence of a hurricane, we can mitigate the effects.
Therefore, every life, every business, every job, every property that we save, is a down payment on a better, stronger, more resilient and more unified future, for ourselves and the ensuring generations.
As always, we are in this, together.
I thank you.