CEMO evaluating response to tsunami threat

It’s been three days since that scary Tsunami threat caused a panic in the nation of Belize.  Thankfully, it was only a threat and within a couple of hours everything was going back to normal. For Belize City, the City Emergency Management Organization (CEMO), has already began to look at ways to improve its response to these types of threats. Today, the media got a chance to speak to the head of CEMO, Belize City Mayor, Darrel Bradley.

CEMO, Belize City Mayor, Darrel Bradley

It was something that crept up on us very suddenly and I received several phone calls when I was at home. This would have been about between 8:30 and maybe like when the treats subsided about 11. We were in constant communication where the various representatives from NEMO, our emergency and security response teams and then, of course, Councillor Philip Willoughby, who is the Councillor with responsibility for CEMO .Technically speaking I am the head of CEMO as the mayor but Philip Willoughby really discharges a tremendous amount of operational leadership and support on behalf of Belize City Council. What we did is that we deployed several strategic teams including our special constable officers. They were working with personnel from CEMO and personnel from the police force and other agencies. they went out into certain neighborhoods. I mean it was very much a rudimentary affair cause they were blowing horns and knocking on people’s doors giving out advisories and so forth.

 Population wise, Belize City is the largest urban area in Belize with approximately 100 thousand residents. The task of keeping all those people safe during a threat is a large one. Mayor Bradley says he believed that CEMO did a great job on Tuesday night given that it was the first time for a tsunami threat for Belize. He says, however, they are already looking at the areas that need work.

CEMO, Belize City Mayor, Darrel Bradley

One of the things that we are already looking at is how can we coordinate better with NEMO if an emergency creeps up on us so suddenly. One of the things that you would be aware of is that a hurricane takes at least about a week  so you have a week lead time fires and so forth tend to be contained into neighborhoods so that’s a relatively controllable even though it’s a disaster. It’s a relatively controllable thing because it’s in a small area of Belize City where you can deploy resources but a Tsunami which is something that can destroy an entire city within a matter of seconds and can creep up on you only an hour or an hour and a half lead time. That’s something that we need to plan for and I think from an operational stand point we’re looking at that. How can we get systems in place where we can advise people of a threat in the night time when most people are sleeping or when most services are closed down? I think we need to do more in terms of ensuring that there’s some operational emergency procedures and systems in place where we can give a warning. 

Mayor Bradley says a louder warning system would assist with those who are not connected technologically and those who may have a language barrier.

CEMO, Belize City Mayor, Darrel Bradley

Our concern is people who don’t live in areas of notice. You don’t have connection with the internet, face book, social media. You don’t have a radio, telephone. You may live in Gungulung or other areas so that our persons have to actually go out there and really make noise so that people are aware of the threat and of course when you are waking up people they are kind of surprise so that you would have to spend some time in terms of providing information. One of the things we kind of also recognize is that when we give out emergency advisories especially urgent advisories language is a problem. You are engaging with people who you’re giving out advisories in English. You are waking up people but it’s in the night time certain communities in Belize City don’t have lighting. People may feel like you’re a burglar and you’re not speaking a language that they can, all of these things we need to look at. So I’m saying if you have a wider system where when people hear that sound they know tune into the radio or watch an advisory or access your neighbor or something like that because that’s an emergency that will be more efficient. One of the things we are also concerned about is if we have so many emergency personnel in the city if that thing hit within half an hour, those emergency personnel themselves would be at risk. So that what you want is a system that can immediately alert somebody rather than having a system that requires a lot of time especially in the event of a Tsunami which is so sudden. 

The Mayor says simulations should start shortly.

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