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Sep 26, 2017

In Cayo, NEMO Prepares for Multi-Disaster Scenario

The National Emergency Management Organization led a simulation exercise for a multi-disaster and emergency response scenario involving a break in a dam along with other scenarios happening at the same time, some of them more familiar such as earthquakes and hurricanes. National Emergency Coordinator Shelton DeFour spoke to the scenario being dealt with and how the various agencies responded.

 

Shelton DeFour

Shelton DeFour, National Emergency Coordinator

“We had a multi-disaster scenario and the main purpose was to deal with a dam-break scenario, whereby the sirens sounded, which allowed people to react, meaning students and some citizens who were trained and practice and rehearsed for several years now – they have been trained as to what the drill is, to go to safety, to go to high ground, to the designated safe zones that we have set up, and mostly to test the district emergency committee to see how well they could coordinate the response between themselves and BECOL, within the context of a nuclear plant catching fire and throwing some radio-active dust in our area, with a volcano erupting, and the dam breaking due to earthquake. Before that, we were threatened by a category five hurricane similar to where Mitch was. So it was a multi-disaster scenario to look at all the facets of a disaster/emergency risk management system to ensure that we have a sense of the scope of the twenty-first century threat. We are no longer in the twentieth century where we are looking at one focus which is hurricanes. Now, it’s a multi-focus approach, where NEMO has to be ready to deal with any of the eventualities. We may not be perhaps the best at this stage, but we will try our very best to ensure that something is in place, whether it’s earthquake and tsunami, whether it is floods or hurricanes, whether it’s a nuclear plant catching fire, whether it’s a volcano erupting, we must stand ready to be able to at least put our foot out there and say the Government of Belize and the people could rest assured that there is an institution that has some capacity to lead them to some degree of wellbeing and safety. In my estimation it went okay, because I am a hard grader – similar to one of my fellow head of department [Fire] Chief [Ted] Smith, who was one of the chief evaluators. We, I think, will never be satisfied; even when we are dead we will never be satisfied with the standards that we hope and expect our staff to reach and it is our task to get them to that level. But once we continue to do training and exposure, and provide this kind of scenario and setting for them, it means they will improve and get better.”

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