By Abria Cooper
In a world battling the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to forget there are other major concerns that could be lurking around the corner. For the Bahamas that concern is hurricanes. This particular type of natural disaster looms over the archipelagic nation every year, starting June 1st and ends on November 30th.
Residents become even more vigilant with weather reports, and scrambling to fortify their homes. Those living in the northern islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco may become more wary as the Summer progresses due to the traumatic experience of Hurricane Dorian the year before.
On September 1st, 2019 Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Grand Bahama after devastating Abaco. Its category 5 conditions created surges that flooded the majority of the island and severely affected the lives of many residents to an extent that many have never seen before.
Persons lost their homes, vehicles, and other material possessions. Some even lost loved ones who are either missing or confirmed dead.
Dorian left behind an estimated $3.4 billion in damage and losses and there were 74 official deaths.
As the one year anniversary of this catastrophic event approaches, further indicating that the Bahamas is in the midst of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, it is important that residents know as much as possible about hurricane preparedness for their households and businesses.
This week, Tuesday, July 28th, 2020 the Office of the Prime Minister in Grand Bahama announced that all hardware stores on the island will be permitted to open as of Wednesday, July 29, 2020.
Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson stated that the government wants want the public to monitor the possible storm and to be in a position to make all of the necessary preparations.
“We know that in Grand Bahama, we are under a lockdown and only certain businesses were exempted and allowed to open, namely food stores, gas stations and pharmacies, but the Prime Minister has announced that he would allow hardware stores to be opened the same time as our grocery stores and our pharmacies,” he said.
Minister Thompson noted that the hardware stores will be allowed to open until the end of the lockdown on August 7th.
He advised all residents that as they go out and about making storm preparations and buying necessary items, that they continue to observe the health protocols in regard to Covid-19, namely the wearing of masks, observing social distancing and washing hands and using sanitizer on a regular basis.
On May 17th, 2020 The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) released a statement where declaring its approach to hurricane awareness and management will take on a more virtual strategy as it urged the public to prepare for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
This strategy involves ensuring that there are adequate preparedness and mitigation measures, and response and recovery mechanisms in the midst of the fight against COVID-19.
The agency said inspection of designated emergency shelters is nearing completion.
The organization said the theme for this season is: “Building A Disaster Resilient Bahamas”, and listed its campaign hashtags #2020HurricaneSeasonPrepareYourSpace and #FightCOVID-19.
The statement advised members of the public to carry out their hurricane preparedness for their households. This includes; inspection and/or installation of hurricane shutters; storage of emergency supplies like water and non-perishable food items; securing important documents in protective shields; keeping medicine in stock; having cash on hand, and other measures.
Tropical Storm Arthur became the first named storm of 2020 today, forming some two weeks before the formal start of a hurricane season.
Resident should first make an Emergency Plan and ensure everyone in their household knows and understands your hurricane plan. Discuss the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it may affect your hurricane planning. Also remember to plan for the office, kids’ daycare, and anywhere you frequent.COVID-19
Residents should also gather enough supplies for your household; include medication, disinfectant supplies, cloth face coverings, pet supplies in your go bag or car trunk.
If anyone in a household is an individual with a disability identify if they may need additional help during an emergency.
Persons may have to evacuate quickly due to a hurricane, therefore they should learn their evacuation routes, practice with household, pets, and identify where they will stay once they leave their home.
To aid this, residents need to recognize warning signs and alerts review important documents that may be difficult to replace once they are destroyed. Ensure that insurance policies and personal documents like ID are up to date. Make copies and keep them in a secure password protected digital space. De-clutter drains and gutters, bring in outside furniture, consider hurricane shutters.
It is also recommended that residents get tech ready, so cell phone must be kept charged when a hurricane is in the forecast and purchase backup charging devices to power electronics.
Check with neighbors, senior adults, or those who may need additional help securing hurricane plans to see how you can be of assistance to others. Prepare your Business Make sure your business has a continuity plan to continue operating when disaster strikes.
Staying safe during a hurricane means staying informed, listening for emergency information and alerts, and evacuating immediately if told to do so by local officials.
To deal with the weather conditions that accompany a hurricane, residents should determine how best to protect themselves from high winds and flooding.
Take refuge in a designated storm shelter, or an interior room for high winds if the need arises.
If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building and do not climb into a closed attic as you may become trapped.
Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters because the lowest amount of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
Persons should also stay off bridges over fast-moving water.
If you must go to a community or group shelter remember to follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for protecting yourself and family from COVID-19. COVID-19
Be prepared to take cleaning items with you like soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, or general household cleaning supplies to disinfect surfaces you may need to touch regularly. COVID-19
Maintain at least 6 feet between you and persons not part of your immediate family while at the shelter, by avoiding crowds or gathering in groups as much as possible. COVID-19
Anyone over 2 years old should use a cloth face covering while at these facilities. COVID-19
Only use generators outdoors and away from windows.
For evacuees who are returning home after the hurricane has passed they first need to listen to local officials for information and special instructions.
Be careful during clean-up by wearing protective clothing and work with someone else.
Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock.
Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.
Insurance policyholder should first take action right away.
Therefore it is best to respond to any damage quickly to ensure that there are no future damages. For example, if a window is broken they must shield the window to prevent further damage.
After that the damages must be reported to their insurers as soon as possible to take photos as evidence that the damages did occur.
Once these steps are taken, the insurers will have to import adjusters on the island to make their assessments because it is mass spread.