As Barbados and other countries in the region brace for an above-average 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, they will have additional support from a non-governmental organisation that is sending a humanitarian ship to assist in the event of a disaster.
Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Elizabeth Riley, during the agency’s annual press conference held via Zoom on Thursday, said the region is being provided with assistance to strengthen its disaster readiness from Global Support and Development (GSD).
She said the Amsterdam-based GSD will “permanently post” the 80-metre humanitarian vessel, M/V Dawn, in the Caribbean.
“This state-of-the-art vessel is equipped with an operation centre, an onboard medical facility with a dedicated cold storage laboratory, and a desalination plant with the capability to produce up to 70 000 litres of fresh water,” said Riley.
She added that the “purpose-built and self-sufficient ship . . . will ensure timely and high-quality support to any impacted state without cost to countries in the Caribbean”.
“The vessel can also undertake marine survey and salvage operations and allows for the conducting of helideck operations including aircraft refuelling and underslung load cargo transfers as well,” she added.
Riley also announced that CDEMA had commenced preparations for the season in light of an expected 21 named storms, by undertaking a number of disaster response training programmes for member states.
She said this year, the agency hosted seven national exercises within participating states to examine their national plans and make sure arrangements are as they should be, and also to identify areas that need strengthening ahead of an event.
Riley added that CDEMA has been working with its member states to strengthen their logistics and relief management arrangements.
CDEMA also held its flagship regional Exercise SYNERGY on May 22, which focused on a regional response to a multi-hazard, multi-island impact.
Riley also shared that the agency has also been investing in training emergency response deployment team personnel. She said that in April, 40 persons were trained to support deployment teams.
The Executive Director also announced that CDEMA has upgraded its internal telecommunications infrastructure with new HF transceivers.
“And you would recognise that communication tends to be one of the first areas affected when we are impacted by hazards,” she said.
“In collaboration with the World Food Programme, we are also in the process of conducting an Emergency Response Workshop for officers of the emergency response agencies in various states, to train them in the construction of mobile storage units and mobile operational offices in the event that this is required.
“Persons may recall that we mounted some of these mobile units in St Vincent and the Grenadines just last year to support the relief management and logistics efforts in the aftermath of La Soufriere,” Riley added.
The CDEMA boss also indicated that the annual CARICOM Disaster Unit Training will be held in June. She said CDEMA will also be continuing its Disaster Fighters Campaign, launched in 2021.
The campaign uses Caribbean artistes and cricketers to share key messages through the use of promotional videos to strengthen community preparedness for weather systems and natural disasters.
“So far, based on the statistics, we know that this campaign has impacted 16 million persons in 26 countries in the Caribbean region and Central America,” she said.
The United States-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting there will be between 14 and 21 named storms this season, with six to 10 likely to become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes, which are hurricanes of at least Category 3 strength.
Riley added that experts predict a 60 per cent chance of major hurricanes making landfall in the Caribbean during the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, but stressed that “it takes only one event to have a significant impact and hurricane preparedness is absolutely critical”.