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Apr 10, 2018

NEMO Prepares for Hurricanes…and Tsunamis

The National Emergency Management Organization is in full gear with less than two months away from the Tropical Atlantic Hurricane Season. Today, public officers received training at a shelter management and tsunami preparedness workshop. According to NEMO, these types of trainings take place all year round, but this year, there is a special component that has never really covered before; tsunami preparedness. If you can recall, following the earthquake that hit off the coast of Honduras early this year, there was a tsunami warning for Belize and several other countries. So, now NEMO personnel want to ensure that the country is prepared for a tsunami. News Five’s Andrea Polanco attended today’s training and tells us more about shelter management and tsunami preparedness.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The National Emergency Management Organization is hosted a one-day Shelter Management and Tsunami Preparedness Training Workshop for Public Officers in Belize City. NEMO Minister Edmond Castro says these kinds of trainings are ongoing and planning is supported with inspections and right number of personnel.

 

Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro, Minister of NEMO

“We are six weeks away from the beginning of the Hurricane Season and now we incorporate the training of Tsunami, encompass Tsunami training in our program from the last scare that we got couple months ago. So, we are continually trying to update the public officers as to what they need to do. This is the time we deal with the inspections of all the hurricane shelters to make sure that we know what level they are, where they are and what shape they are in. So, by the time the hurricane season starts we can list exactly where is a hurricane shelter.”

 

NEMO’s Regional Coordinator Al Westby explains what the thirty public officers are learning about in shelter management and why.

 

Al Westby

Al Westby, Central Regional Coordinator, NEMO

“The different aspects of being a shelter manager and a shelter warden; how to react within the climate of a shelter. At shelter different people are displaced, you have different moods at shelters. As a shelter manager and warden you cannot come with a raw face of a bad face, you will have to deal with people who are displaced and don’t have that home feeling.”

 

While Tsunami is a relatively new phenomenon for Belizeans – the warning earlier this year gave locals a scare. The warning period and duration of a tsunami differ from a hurricane – making it a bit more challenging to prepare for. And so it is imperative that everyone has the information and tips needed if a tsunami should occur.

 

Edmond Castro

“The last time we used the fire service and so on, the police and sirens to wake up people so that they know what is going on. So, in the event we are faced with a threat, the people, the general population will be able to know what to do and what not to do.”

 

Al Westby

“Like a hurricane we could play seventy-two, forty-eight, thirty-six, twenty-four hours and it is hurricane. Tsunami is a very quick action. It is based on time. So there is not much that we could actually sit down and do. We have to get the public at large in taking care of themselves, move to high grounds, and move to high grounds, the safest spot that you think, high buildings and get out of the way. Look for certain signs; receding water, the sea and things like that.”

 

Philip Willoughby

Philip Willoughby, Operations Officer, NEMO

“You know that we have named hurricane shelters that are utilized during a hurricane event. But it goes beyond that now, if there is a school that is not on the hurricane list but it can withstand a tsunami, then that school has to be named as a tsunami shelter. If you look at the sheer volume of people that need to migrate from their home or a dwelling to a shelter, that is a huge number of people and that has to happen like snap.  We need to provide the logistical support in key strategic locations across this city or any district, especially in the low lying areas to get those residents or those folks, those tourists or whoever they are to that named shelter nearest to them. It is so that they can be safe and we can preserve life.”

 

And to build public awareness to help preserve life and property, NEMO is also boosting their PSAs and multi-media campaigns with trainings and workshops for schools, communities and other groups.

 

Al Westby

“We go to the different schools, even churches, neighborhood watch groups. We encourage the neighborhood watch groups with the police to come in and tell us when and where you want us to go and train. We work Sunday to Sunday, doesn’t matter. If you have your neighbors; twenty to thirty of your neighbors who want to do some training, we are there. We have a hotline 936 – you call it; you can call my number within this region 630-3224. Anytime we are willing to come and train within your area. We provide all the materials, the food and everything; we go along to try strengthen whichever community as best as we can.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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