Monday, June 9, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting: The 2014 hurricane season has begun. Are you ready?
The Belize City Council and its Central Emergency Management Organization (CEMO) say they are, and want residents to be as well.
Today Belize City Mayor and CEMO chairperson Darrell Bradley and City Councilor with responsibility for emergency management Philip Willoughby hosted the press at City Hall to speak about the Council’s preparations.
The Council’s plans are very detailed – down to the names of the bus drivers who will help evacuate the City in case of a major hurricane.
Mayor Bradley said that the Council’s plans are not totally foolproof but is confident they will stand up to any test at any time.
The City has 13 designated shelters for minor-level hurricanes, Categories 1 and 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
For Categories 3 and above, on the order of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), there is a voluntary and mandatory evacuation plan, outlined by pre-prepared routes and schedules for heavy equipment and buses to roll through. The shelters were inspected and declared fit in January of this year.
CEMO is a fully integrated department of the Council and has been tasked with the training of public officers who work the shelters and ensuring safe passage of transient evacuees from the Cayes.
According to Councilor Willoughby, the Council and CEMO have spent much of the year fine-tuning their plans, installing helpful signage, training their own and other workers in emergency management preparedness and key issues including assistance to those with special needs, and especially making sure that the City is hurricane-ready, if not hurricane-proof.
This includes training some employees in Braille and sign language for those with special needs and incorporating other organizations, such as the Department of Human Services, Red Cross, Disabilities Association and others to reach out to those with special needs.
Bradley stated that comfort is not a priority and so residents should come prepared for close quarters and short tempers.
He added that shelters will be reserved for the very neediest and so unless you absolutely have to, either stay at home or leave the City voluntarily and stay with friends and family.
As part of the Council’s awareness plans it is hosting a symposium addressing the issue of climate change and its role in weather development.
The Mayor noted that the Council’s move to concreted streets was a nod to those effects, as they are expected to last better than asphalted streets.
The symposium takes place at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel beginning on Tuesday morning.
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