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Jun 1, 2022

NEMO and National Met Service Share Their Hurricane Preparedness Plan

The above-normal 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season is due to the likely presence of the La Nina phenomenon, as well as warmer-than-normal sea temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. In anticipation of the possibility of Belize coming under threat, today the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and the National Meteorological Service held a press conference to advise people on the dos and don’ts. News Five’s Marion Ali was there and has this report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Twenty-one storms have been predicted for this year and in the event that one or more of them threaten Belize, the local disaster emergency preparedness and response authority, NEMO and the National Met Service today shared their plan.


Head of the organization, Retired Colonel Shelton DeFour, said that they have been conducting shelter inspections and training people in their roles and responsibilities. And where, in the past, public officers who were entrusted with the keys to hurricane shelters went incommunicado at the most critical hour, that’s not to going to be the case now, DeFour assured.


Col. (Ret'd) Shelton DeFour

Col. (Ret’d) Shelton DeFour, Coordinator, NEMO

“The system to access to get to the schools will be the district coordinator arranging with the principal or the management of the school to get the keys so that the school can be opened to allow people to get to the shelter of their choice and that will reduce the fuss about the point that your made that some persons not being available.”


DeFour says NEMO commanders have ensured to stay in communication in the event a hurricane renders the national communications companies’ transmitters nonfunctional.


The NEMO warehouses across the country have also been stocked and accessing the goods in times of need should not take excessively long. But that’s the response after a hurricane hits. What concerns a lot of people is taking into account safety protocols at a time when COVID infections are once again on the rise.


Shelton DeFour

“Upon arriving at a shelter, persons will need to show their status in terms of vaccination because it impacts on shelter space. If you’re not vaccinated, the classrooms which we normally put thirty persons in will only be able to house ten, so we lose considerable amount of shelter space. So, if you’re vaccinated, then we could increase the shelter space to about twenty persons per classroom, which means more people can shelter. For persons who have COVID or showing signs of COVID, the screening with the Ministry of Health representative will have them quarantined at a particular section of that shelter.”


The evacuation of large numbers of people from coastal communities and municipalities, including from densely-populated areas such as Belize City before a hurricane strikes, could also be chaotic if certain elements are not taken into consideration. Liaison Officer with the City Emergency Management Organization for the Belize City Council, Melanie Dawson said there’ve been simulations in each constituency to evacuate Belize City residents to Belmopan.


Melanie Dawson

Melanie Dawson, CEMO Liaison Officer, Belize City Council

“We do simulations as well to see how rightly these routes would fit because, as you know, if we get a warning or a storm is coming, sometimes the streets, the roads and everything gets blocked up. So, with our plan in place, I would say that our evacuation route would definitely play a huge role. To start off, the routes are set by constituency. We have a pick-up point in each constituency. For example, for the Collet area, we will have a pick-up point at Unity Presbyterian (Primary School). From there, they will be transported to Belmopan.”


Aside from evacuation, disseminating information in a timely fashion is also key during a hurricane’s passage, but Chief Meteorologist, Ronald Gordon discourages people from using social media to do so because it can overwhelm people into complacency.


Ronald Gordon, Chief Meteorologist, National Meteorological Service

“We know that with social media: Facebook, WhatsApp, there are many persons out there claiming to be experts that are actually putting out information that often times serve to create unnecessary panic, and one of the things is when you over-warn people, they become complacent when something is actually coming because they have heard that story so many times. So it’s important that we use and we focus on official sources of information.”


The team advised every family to have a hurricane plan for how you will take care of yourself, your family members and your pets, whose lives often times are never taken into consideration when evacuation is necessary. Colonel DeFour says NEMO will have on its website a list of locations where people could probably take their animals in the event a hurricane looms over Belize MA4N5

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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