Thursday, May 27, 2010

GB Port Authority Meets On Disaster Preparedness

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS MEETING AT GBPA – Hurricanes, oil spills and other disasters were some of the topics discussed during a recent disaster preparedness meeting organized by the ‘Port Authority’.

 Freeport, Bahamas – As the start of the 2010 hurricane season approaches, The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) has gone into preparatory mode. Recent meetings were held at GBPA headquarters with representatives from GBPA’s Environmental Department, G.B. Utility, Industrial Park companies, Grand Bahama Health Services and government agencies in attendance.

“We are here today to check our level of preparedness for the upcoming 2010 hurricane season. This is indeed a timely meeting and we’re grateful to see all of our industry partners here with others at the table,” said GBPA Hurricane Disaster Preparedness Duty Officer and NEMA Liaison Officer, Geneva Rutherford, as she chaired the meeting.

In an average season, experts predict 9.6 named storms, with 5.9 developing into hurricanes, and of which 2.3 will be intense. The 2010 season is expected to see 15 named storms, with 8 developing into hurricanes, and of which 4 will be intense.

“Obviously weather experts are forecasting a productive 2010 hurricane season,” said meteorologist, Trinard Tynes, of Air Traffic Services as he addressed the group. “The reason why we want to be prepared is because history tells us over the years, that the more information you have about a particular season, more disasters and tragedies can be prevented. Oftentimes casualties are not due so much to a lack of knowledge but negligence in a number of cases.”

Tynes also cited storm surge, flooding and wind as some of the main hazards associated with hurricanes. Such hazards were of particular concern to many of the industrial partners gathered.

Speaking on behalf of the Grand Bahama Utility Company was manager, Geron Turnquest. He outlined safety measures that have been put in place to protect the company’s storage tanks and water supply. “We have emergency generators on hand so that in the event of power loss, our system will still be intact and we’d be able to pump water into the city. In fact, once we get the all clear, we can get back up and running fairly quickly as long as there aren’t any busted water lines,” said Turnquest.

AGENCY UPDATES – Representatives from various agencies provided details of their respective disaster preparedness plans, including Geron Turnquest (far right) G.B. Utility Manager.

Reflecting on the aftermath in the face of recent storms, Turnquest assured the group that the utility company has proactively beefed up capacity. “We’re in a better position now than we were back then because we now have more storage capacity west of the Fishing Hole road. Also, we are in the process of talking with Ginn to find out exactly what their capacity is and how they would be able to assist in servicing the western end of the island in the event of a disaster,” he added.

Mr. Don Cornish, Administrator in the Office of the Prime Minister, noted that Government has been diligently working in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season. “As evidence of our proactive approach, an emergency centre is up and running in Grand Bahama with emergency telephone numbers and a separate office that specifically focuses on disaster response,” Cornish stated.

Cognizant of the need to address disaster preparedness in general and not just hurricanes, Rutherford called on a National Oil Spill Committee representative to update the group on contingency plans in light of the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its probable affect on Bahamian waters.

Industry partners present also outlined their respective company’s stance towards disaster preparedness, with all in attendance pledging to work cooperatively as agencies responsible for protecting the lives and assets of Grand Bahama.

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