Stark words were delivered from the District Coordinator for the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) last week during the Chamber of Commerce meeting regarding hurricane preparedness. Jim Janmohamed said if you can’t afford to get yourself off the island and a safe shelter in case of a hurricane, you should not be living on the island. “We will not provide emergency shelter or provide free evacuation, therefore people should not plan on it,” he stressed. Janmohamed, the NEMO District Coordinator for Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker was the guest speaker during the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting last Thursday. He shared with the group the current hurricane plan. Hurricane season officially started June 1 and ends November 30, with the peak months being September and October.

    Because the cayes are so vulnerable to a major storm, worldwide organizations refuse to support the construction of a hurricane shelter. The presence of a shelter on this island would give a false impression of a safe haven, and possibly encourage people not to evacuate. “They do not want to give a false sense of security,” said Janmohamed. “The best protection is to get off the island when you can,” he stressed. “Of course, we will assist those who do not make it off the island or choose to stay for whatever reason. What we are saying is that people should not count on this type of support and instead should make a plan in case an evacuation must occur.” In the past, the Roman Catholic Primary School on both Cayes and the Community Center on Caye Caulker have been used as a shelter and are still listed as shelters on the NEMO web site.

    The plan notes that historically, 90 percent of all hurricane casualties have occurred from drowning and 10 percent from other causes. Therefore, it is imperative that all persons should evacuate the Cayes, beaches and other locations, which may be swept by high tides or storm waves. The highest tide occurs during the second half of the storm and that the rise of the water may take place very rapidly immediately following the eye of the storm or the time of the lowest barometric pressure. If your only passage to high ground is over a road subject to flooding, leave early. Do not run the risk of being marooned or having to evacuate at the height of the storm amid flying debris. It is important to have a planned place to go. Hotels and motels quickly fill up during these times.

    When an evacuation is determined necessary the media will be notified to immediately inform the public. In addition, all the resorts will be notified by the Belizean Tourism Board in an effort to get all tourists off the island immediately. Resorts are required to ‘insist’ that the tourists leave. Allowing them to stay may result in the loss of their tourist license. “Some tourists think it would be fun to experience a hurricane, until it hits. Then they want to leave when it is too late,” he added. Also in the past, major US airlines have added flights so that visitors can return to their home countries. Tropic Air and Maya Island Air fly as long at it is safe and also to allow them time to secure their aircraft, according to Janmohamed.

    Janmohamed is part of a committee that includes the Mayor, Area Representative, police and the fire department who determine when an evacuation notice should be called.

    In addition to the safety of people, Janmohamed stressed the need for people to make arrangements for their pets. He said in the past, some owners tied their dogs to fence at the airport. They were forced to release the dogs and provide them limited amount of food and water. He asked that pet owners make plans and arrangements for their pets to be cared for.

    All businesses and individuals are encouraged to make specific plans ahead of time that will fit their needs. The complete hurricane plan can be found on the NEMO website: www.nemo.org.bz or from www.sanpedrosun.net (See Below).

-----HURRICANE SEASON 2007-----

    Historically, 90 percent of all hurricane casualties have occurred from drowning and 10 percent from other causes. Therefore, it is imperative that all persons should evacuate the Cayes, beaches and other locations, which may be swept by high tides or storm waves. Evacuate to a recommended place of refuge.

    Remember that the highest tide occurs during the second half of the storm and that the rise of the water may take place very rapidly immediately following the eye of the storm or the time of the lowest barometric pressure. If your only passage to high ground is over a road subject to flooding, leave early. Do not run the risk of being marooned or having to evacuate at the height of the storm amid flying debris.

    Below is the information you need to prepare for a hurricane:

  • Names of Hurricanes for 2007
  • Tips for fishermen
  • Flag Signals during a hurricane
  • How to Track a hurricane
  • Storm Categories
  • How to prepare for High Winds
  • How to prepare for Flood Waters
  • Hurricane Safety Rules
  • How to assemble a Disaster Kit to take with you to a Shelter
  • Hurricane Shelters 2007
  • Know what to do After a hurricane is over
  • Protect Your Pet
NAMES OF HURRICANES FOR 2007 Andrea
Barry
Chantal
Dean
Erin
Felix
Gabrielle
Humberto
Ingrid
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Noel
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sabastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy

Tips For Fishermen
  • Remove as many or all fish pots as you can from the sea and store them on the land as far as away from the sea as possible. Use plenty of strong rope to tie and secure the fish pots on the land.
  • As much as possible reduce or do not carry out to sea any new fish pots during the hurricane season, especially between the months of September and October.
  • Remove all seine nets and other fishing gear from the sea. Store them securely on the land, far away from the sea as possible.
FLAG SIGNALS DURING A HURRICANE
Know what a hurricane WATCH and WARNING mean

PRELIMINARY ALERT

RED I - WATCH

First Phase
21°N 80° W - May threaten within 72 hrs.

Second Phase: Hurricane WATCH 20° N 84°W
Hurricane conditions are possible in the specified area of the WATCH, usually within 36 hours. (Keep informed of the storm's progress)

RED II - WARNING

ALL CLEAR

Third Phase: Hurricane WARNING
20° N 85° W
Hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area of the WARNING, usually within 24 hours. (Stay tuned to your local radio and television stations for hurricane advisories and safety information. DO NOT LISTEN TO RUMORS. Stay at home if your house is sturdy and on high ground. If not, move to a friend's house or to a designated shelter.)

Fourth Phase: Hurricane has passed

HOW TO TRACK A HURRICANE

Advisories are numbered consecutively for each storm. Present location and intensity is described and expected movement is given. Tropical cyclones advisories are issued at six-hour intervals - at midnight, 6:00am, noon and 6:00pm Eastern Daylight Time. Each message gives the name, centre (eye) position, intensity and forecast movement of the tropical cyclone. Hurricane centre positions are given by latitude (for example 13.5 degrees north) and longitude (for example 55.0 degrees west). When the storm moves within range of radars, centre position may also be given as statute miles and compass direction from a specified point. Tropical cyclones are not given names until they reach the storm stage - that is, rotary circulation, and constant winds over 38 mph (33 knots).

When you receive a tropical cyclone advisory, note the advisory number, centre position, intensity and forecast direction of movement. Mark the centre position on the tracking chart. Because hurricanes change direction very quickly, you should listen more carefully to where the storm will go than where it has been.

STORM CATEGORIES

TROPICAL WAVE: A cluster of clouds and/or thunderstorms without a significant circulation and generally moving from east to west through the tropics.

TROPICAL DEPRESSION: The formative stage of a tropical storm or a hurricane. A tropical depression has a centre of circulation and sustained winds of less than 39 mph.

TROPICAL STORM: The tropical depression has formed and strengthened. This is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with top sustained winds of 39 mph to 73 mph. This is the stage when storms are named.

HURRICANES:

Category 1: Winds 74-95 mph. Storm surge 4-6 ft above normal. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery and trees. Coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.

Category 2: Winds 96-110 mph. Storm surge 6-10 ft above normal. Some roof, door and window damage of buildings. Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees with some trees blown down. Considerable damage to mobile homes and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hrs before arrival of hurricane centre. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.

Category 3: Winds 111-130 mph. Storm surge 10-16 ft above normal Some structural damage to small residences with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Damage to shrubbery and trees with foliage blown off trees and large trees blown down. Mobile homes are destroyed. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of hurricane centre. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain continuously lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded inland 10 miles or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences along the shoreline may be required.

Category 4: Winds 131-155 mph. Storm surge 16 to 22 ft above normal. More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failures on small residences. Shrubs and trees blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be cut by rising water 3-5 hours before the arrival of the hurricane centre. Major damage to the lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 15 ft above sea level may be flooded requiring evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 10 miles.

Category 5: Winds greater than 155 mph. Storm surge greater than 22 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown away. All shrubs, trees and signs blown down, Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane centre. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 20 ft above sea level and within 11000 yards of the shoreline, Evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 15 miles of the shoreline may be required.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR HIGH WINDS

  • Install Hurricane Shutters or purchase 1/2-inch outdoor plywood board for each window of your home. Install anchors for the plywood and pre-drilled holes in the plywood so that you can put it up quickly.
  • Remove diseased and damaged limbs from trees, pruning them so that wind can pass through easily.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR FLOOD WATERS
  • Listen to your local radio or TV stations for up-to-date storm information.
  • After basic local safety, your most serious concern is going to be flooding. If the hurricane has brought serious tidal surges with it, it's possible that you will be experiencing rising water in the area after the storm has passed.
  • You don't want to wait until the floodwaters are on your doorsteps to take action. Heavy rainfall, even for short periods may be quickly followed by flash floods in hilly areas.
  • Stay away from natural streambeds, valleys and other drainage channels during and after rainstorms. Water runs off the higher elevations very rapidly, causing the natural drainage system to overflow with rushing floodwaters and their deadly cargo of rocks, mud, smashed trees and other debris.
  • Stay out of flooded areas. The water may still be rising and the current is usually swift, never try to cross a flowing stream on foot if the water is above your knees.
HURRICANE SAFETY RULES

1. Stay tuned to radio and television stations for regular bulletins.
2. Rely only on official bulletins; do not check these over the telephone.
3. As long as your house is inland and well built-with strong foundations and a good roof, stay at home.
4. Use storm shutters or board windows securely, protect outward door.
5. Stock up on food, which has a long shelf life.
6. Check that oil and butane stoves are in working order- replenish stock of kerosene, charcoal and butane.
7. Sterilize baths; all containers and cooking utensils to store water. If in doubt, drink boiled or treated water only.
8. Keep flashlights, candies and storm lanterns handy along with batteries and matches.
9. Store all garden implements and furniture inside if possible.
10. Lighten foliage of fruit trees near buildings. If very strong winds are likely, remove all coconuts.
11. If you are evacuating, leave early so that you are not stranded by flooded roads, fallen trees, wires and traffic jams and make sure you have enough fuel in your vehicle and follow routes and highways.
12. If there is a lull after the 'eye' of the storm has passed, stay in a safe place, except to make emergency repairs. The wind may return suddenly with even greater strength.
13. Since 90 percent of hurricane casualties occur from drowning, you must evacuate islands and beaches and other vulnerable locations as early as possible.
14. Those seeking shelter should shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving home.

* Pets are not allowed at shelters, you need to make your own arrangements for the safety of your pets.

PREPARE A DISASTER SUPPLY KIT TO TAKE WITH YOU TO A SHELTER

Assemble supplies you might need in an evacuation. Store them in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or duffle bag.

Include:

  • A supply of water (one gallon per person per day). Store water in sealed, unbreakable container. Identify the storage date and replace every six months.
  • A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • A first aid kit and prescription medication.
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.
  • Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.
  • Sanitary supplies i.e., toilet paper; feminine supplies and soap.
  • Personal identification documents such as passports, birth certificates, residency cards etc.
  • Legal documents i.e., Land deeds, Insurance certificates etc.
  • Cash as well as Credit cards and cheque book.
HURRICANE SHELTERS 2007

To be announced

KNOW WHAT TO DO AFTER A HURRICANE IS OVER

  • Remain at home or in the shelter until informed that it is safe to leave.
  • Keep tuned to the radio for instructions.
  • Beware of loose wires and report them immediately to the police, SPEC, fire department, or Belize Electricity Limited.
  • Stay out of disaster areas, damaged buildings and flooded areas.
  • Take extra fire precautions.
  • Report broken sewers and mains to the SPEC or Belize Sewerage Authority.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage.
  • Drive carefully - roads may have been substantially weakened.
  • Listen to the radio for information about
  • Where to go for medical care in your area.
  • Where to go for emergency aid for shelter, food and clothing.
  • Ways to help yourself and others to recover from the emergency.
Protect Your Pet

Pet owners are responsible for disaster planning for their pet. If you plan to evacuate, plan for your pet as well. Take your pet Survival Kit if you go to friends, relatives or a hotel. Shelters cannot accept pets. So if you plan to go to a public shelter, make the required provisions for your pet/s.

After the storm has passed, be careful in allowing your pet outdoors. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet could easily be confused and become lost. Downed power lines, and animals and insects brought in with high water, could present real dangers to your pet. Take care not to allow your pet to consume food or water which may have become contaminated.

PET SURVIVAL KIT

  • Proper ID collar and rabies tag
  • Carrier or cage
  • Leash
  • Food Supply
  • Water/food bowl
  • Medication, if necessary
  • Specific care instructions


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