Wednesday, July 24, 2024

National Emergency Management Organization District Coordinator prepared for Hurricane Season

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The Atlantic Hurricane Season officially began on June 1st and will continue until November 30, 2024. The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) Belize Rural South collaborates with all government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to protect the lives and property of all residents.
For a comprehensive understanding of the preparations for the hurricane season, the San Pedro Sun interviewed Vanessa Parham, District Emergency Coordinator for Belize Rural South, NEMO. She shared insights on the steps the public should take in the face of an approaching hurricane. Parham explained, “In the event of an impending Tropical Storm or Hurricane, the protocol is to activate the Emergency Operation Centers, also known as the Command Centers. This decision is based on the advisory of Chief Meteorological Officer Mr. Ronald Gordon to Prime Minister Hon. John Briceno, the National Emergency Coordinator, and Captain Mr. Daniel Mendez, who activates our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Given the vulnerability of San Pedro, Caye Caulker, and their surrounding islands, we initiated this procedure weeks ago. In the event of an evacuation due to the threat of a storm or based on the hurricane category, we encourage families to have a family emergency plan. Therefore, all NEMO Coordinators distribute multi-hazard/disaster information and family emergency plans during public events,” said Parham.
In the case of an evacuation due to a storm threat or hurricane category, Parham explained that she would assume the role of District Coordinator. The Honorable Andre Perez would become the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Chairman here in San Pedro, and Mayor Gualberto “Wally” Nuñez would become the Deputy Chairman. Each counselor would also be part of the team, which consists of a trained team and essential volunteers, ensuring the safety and trust of the community.
Regarding Caye Caulker, the newly appointed NEMO Assistant District Coordinator, Kristylane Wolfe, and the Chairlady Seleny Pott, become the Chairlady of the EOC, along with village councilors activating their Community Emergency Plan.
Members of the EOC are trained and know their terms of reference and what to do before, during, and after activation. “We also have entities such as Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), Belize Tourism Board (BTB), Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), Belize Water Service Limited (BWSL), Hol Chan, and other private and government entities that play their part in hurricane preparation,” said Parham. The command to fly the hurricane warning flags and the decision on when to deactivate the EOC comes from the National Coordinator.
Parham further explained the importance of evacuation and seeking shelter. “During catastrophic hurricanes, we strongly encourage all hotels, guesthouses, Airbnb’s, and hostels to refrain from accepting tourist bookings and appointments. We work with entities such as BTB, BTIA, and the Hotel Association of Belize. We are firm in our push for early voluntary evacuations for Belize Rural South, especially for residents in low-lying flood-prone areas, given that all islands are vulnerable and surrounded by the sea and lagoons. We urge residents to heed impending hurricane warnings for their safety or relocate inland for shelter. While we have shelters for both islands, there’s always the risk of catastrophic damage from storm surge, wind, and unpredictable rain when a hurricane lands. Due to limited shelters, we highly encourage voluntary evacuations.”

Hurricane Shelter in San Pedro

Shelters in San Pedro include Sage Brush Church and Saint John Paul Youth Center, which is for those with disabilities. Shelters in Caye Caulker include Caye Caulker Roman Catholic School and Ocean Academy School. “We are continuing our preparations by providing certified training in EOC, shelter management, damage assessment needs, and analysis. This training involves collaboration with various NGOs to train government agencies and support emergency management and preparedness.”
Parham also mentioned that they will soon start holding our monthly meeting with the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) and other essential volunteers and members. “We will continue to organize public awareness events, share family emergency plans, and provide information on disaster preparedness. Additionally, we will be working with other San Pedro NGOs to plan for disaster risk management and response. I believe there is always room for growth and improvement, and I am grateful for the support of all our valuable EOC members and volunteers for both islands. Furthermore, I highly appreciate the immense support of the Hon. Andre Perez, Mayor Wally Nunez, Chairlady Seleny Pott, and local businesses. I strongly believe that Emergency Management is everyone’s responsibility. We all have a duty to ourselves, our families, and our community.”
For further details and updates, please visit https://site.nemo.org.bz/district-organizations/san-pedro/ or contact NEMO District Coordinator Vanessa Parham at the cellular number 614-5865.

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