HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS #1 PRIORITY FOR NEMA – (PRESENTLY)
The 2018 Hurricane season was not as devastating for the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis in comparison to some regional neighbours and certainly, the continental USA, which was heavily impacted by Storms Florence and Michael. Last year, both Florence and Michael combined to kill more than 100 Americans, while costing almost $50 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Colorado State University and other top seasonal forecasters from within the United States of America, predict 13 named tropical storms will form this year, with five becoming hurricanes, thus categorising 2019 as a “near average” season. An average season has 12 tropical storms, six of which are hurricanes.
Of the five predicted hurricanes, two are expected to develop into major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) with sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or greater. The season begins on June 1st.
National Disaster Coordinator, Abdias Samuel, warns the public not to become complacent no matter what is forecast by the experts.
“Everyone knows that destruction does not always come as a result of a major impact, heavy rains that lead to flooding is all it takes…,” he said, reminding everyone that it only takes one impact to disrupt life and livelihood as we know it.
Senior Met Officer, Elmo Burke has indicated to the agency that weather is dynamic, and can change in a minute with no notification.
“What we try to do at the Met Office,” Burke has said, “is to share as much information as possible on seasonal weather patterns, and how persons may remain safe by being prepared.”
Alert messaging and emergency notices also form part of the Met Office remit, through partnerships with NEMA and local media.
“St. Kitts Meteorological Services is the authentic source for issuing warnings when weather systems threaten the Federation. We are able to do this by gathering information from Antigua and Barbuda Met Office, which has the responsibility of monitoring the development of all systems which threaten the Leeward and British Virgin Islands.”
It is through the relationship between the local Met Office and Antigua and Barbuda Met Services that alerts, watches and warnings are issued and coordinated with disaster management authorities in the region.
IT’S TIME TO GET READY for the Hurricane Season, which begins on June 1st, 2019, by preparing, planning and staying informed. Here are some tips for staying safe:
- Update your disaster kit. NEMA recommends storing a few staples such as: a three-day supply of non-perishable food and bottled water, a battery-operated radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, cash, medicines, a first aid kit, pet foods, and important family documents.
- Clear your property before the season starts or before the peak (August through September) by cutting or trimming trees and limbs, clearing debris or sediment from pipes, drains or culverts to prevent flooding.
- Tie down or store indoors, unattached outdoor furniture, materials, heavy equipment or tools which can become missiles in high winds.
- Know your NEMA District Managers and Volunteers and how to contact them, as they are your community’s First Responders in the event of impact. Engage them during their “Pre –Season Walk Throughs” in the district where you live, to ensure that they know who you are and how to assist you in an emergency situation.
- Contact the NEMA or St. Kitts-Nevis Red Cross Society for information on resource and other support persons in your community. Source information of Emergency Assistance Programmes for the elderly and for persons living with disabilities.
- Develop a Family/Business Contingency Plan, which includes emergency telephone numbers, and a point of contact – for families- in the event of separation when a storm hits.
- NEMA: Operates as a Secretariat during down time and the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), when there is a threat. This transition and other pertinent information, such as emergency numbers and operations, will be shared with the public using ALL local media.
- Listen to local radio or TV stations for up-to- date urgent information, and be prepared to take action, when and if prompted to evacuate.
- Know the location of shelters in your area and create a plan to get there, if you have to move or receive an evacuation order.
- Learn what is acceptable and what is not, in a shelter during an emergency, prior to going there.
- Wait until NEMA officials issue the “All Clear”, before going outdoors, if you are in a safe place, following an impact.
Sub Committee Chairpersons who form part of the National Disaster Plan have begun to meet with their members, in preparation for the Mitigation Council meeting, which is slated for next month. The annual exercise allows for reporting on readiness for the season by the Council members including NEMA’s Volunteer Corps.
The Ten sub committees are chaired by Permanent Secretaries, with responsibilities for the following groupings:
- Medical and Public Health,
- Transport Disaster,
- Education, Communications and Warning,
- Welfare, Relief Supplies and Shelter,
- Damage Assessment and Recovery,
- Housing and Shelter,
- Search, Rescue and Initial Clearance,
- Foreign Assistance,
There is also representation on the Council from Chamber of Industry and Commerce, St. Kitts Christian Council and the Evangelical Association.
Although the Colorado State predictions for 2019 are not expected to drastically change, the University will continue to upgrade its forecast three times over the next few months, on June 4, July 2 and Aug. 6.
However, NDC Samuel contends that preparedness is key to individual and community safety…
“…It’s about ensuring that information is timely, including potential impact timelines, knowing how to respond to the threat; awareness of available rescue and other resources; and confirming that every individual, in every district, has access to Early Warning Messaging.
2019 STORM NAMES ARE:
The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season ends on 30th November.
For more information: Call (869) 466-5100 or (869) 467-1151.
Facebook: Nema Skn
Vesta I. Southwell
Public Relations Officer
24th April, 2019.