NASSAU, The Bahamas – Scientists of the Pacific Disaster Centre, based in Hawaii, United States of America, applaud The Bahamas for recent completion of its National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment, saying that the data gathered from the Assessment will help the country advance ability to reduce its vulnerability to potential disasters, while increasing its coping capacity.
The Baseline Assessment was designed to provide the data, tools, and the evidence, for “good policymaking” for the Government, and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and was custom-made to fit the specific needs of The Bahamas, island by island, community by community. The PDC scientists say the Assessment also provides The Bahamas “with a clear road map” over the next five years to achieving the goals outlined in three key international environmental protocols, including the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals that provide a clear mandate for increased coherence in countries around the globe approaches to climate and disaster risk reduction.
“This is very exciting,” said Dr. Erin Hughey, Director of the Pacific Disaster Centre.
“The Bahamas is just one of 20 countries that have completed the Assessment,
but it is an operationalization of the Sendai Framework, the Paris Agreement on
Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals, and so it provides The
Bahamas with a clear road map over the next 5 years to achieving those goals and
advancing their ability to reduce vulnerability and increase coping capacity. It also places The Bahamas not only as a leader within the Caribbean, but as a global leader for using data and evidence for decision-making and so it is a very exciting place for The Bahamas to be in.”
Dr. Hughey and her team of scientists and experts, which included Dr. Joseph Green, the Director of Applied Sciences at the Pacific Disaster Centre, and Scott Kuykendall, Exercise Lead for the PDC and Country Lead for The Bahamas who served as the Team Lead for the National Baseline Assessment, recently made a presentation on the findings of the Baseline Assessment to Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip E. Davis, and Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response, the Hon. Myles K. LaRoda, at the Office of the Prime Minister, Cecil V. Wallace-Whitfield Centre, Cable Beach.
Dr. Hughey said the Assessment provides an analysis of every single Family Island and Family Island community that comprises the Bahamian archipelago, identifying what their main risks are, the hazards they should be preparing for, and those they should prepare for, that were not traditionally thought of - such as landslides or rock slides.
“So that is the first (component), understanding the risks. The second is really looking at the capacity, the island capacity, that each Family Islands has and can bring to bear and what that tells us is the likelihood that each Family Island will be able to effectively respond without assistance from NEMA or Central Government. You know in many cases assistance will be needed and what the Assessment does is that it allows Islands (Family Islands in particular), to communicate with NEMA and the Central Government (prior to impact) and say in the likelihood of an event, we can expect that we will need support with things such as telecommunications, with logistics, movement of persons and goods, so it really helps the Family Islands target their preparedness efforts.”
Dr. Hughey said, as island-archipelagos, The Bahamas and Hawaii “have a lot in common.”
“As an island-archipelago, we cannot easily move items from point A to Point B and so logistically we both have significant challenges. I think Hawaii is the most remote island-chain in the world and so we need to be prepared for up to two weeks of food, water and taking care of ourselves before aid can come in. The Bahamas has its unique set of challenges in that they expand over such a large geographic area and the size of the islands themselves are so small that every single island is at risk for hurricanes. We also share some of the same hazard profiles. We are very familiar with hurricanes, but we also both deal with significant flooding, with wild-land fires, and we are dealing with sea level rises. We start to really enter the conversation on climate change.”
Dr. Hughey has had a professional relationship with The Bahamas and the National Emergency Management Agency dating back 20 years. She spoke about the “improvements” she has witnessed during that time-span.
“It has been a real honour to be able to participate in, and support disaster management in The Bahamas,” Dr. Hughey said. “I think over the last 20 years the things that we have seen (that) are most significant is the professionalism of disaster management, formalizing the role of NEMA, formalizing the role of preparedness and really positioning NEMA as the leading force within the country as a kind of guide post as to what a family should be preparing f or, what a settlement should be preparing for, and what an island should be preparing for.”