SPEC prepares for Hurricane Season 2002

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 20            May 30, 2002

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The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) held a workshop last Thursday to prepare San Pedro for the upcoming hurricane season which begins on Saturday, June 1st. Members of the San Pedro Emergency Committee (SPEC) as well as San Pedro Mayor Alberto Nuñez and the town councilors were invited to attend this information workshop facilitated by Major Sheldon DeFour of NEMO. San Pedro police officers were also in attendance to learn more about the emergency management process in the event they are needed in specific areas or situations.

    These and other annual meetings are arranged so that district and village emergency committees and community personnel can improve their plans before the onset of the next hurricane. During the workshop, Major DeFour conducted training drills to determine the group's problem-solving abilities. According to NEMO San Pedro's Operations Officer Jim Janmohamed, a pre-determined time limit of 45 minutes was set to solve the exercise but San Pedro's skillful emergency team completed the challenge with five minutes to spare. He stated the Major complimented the San Pedro team on their efficiency in decision-making and their thought process. Even though the group came up "with all the right answers," Major DeFour stressed the fact that SPEC would not be burdened with so many tasks if the evacuation process was a success; urging them to focus on getting as many people as possible to leave the island in the early stages of an alert.

    At a follow-up meeting held by SPEC on Friday, existing buildings were discussed as possible alternate hurricane shelters for the island. It was noted that San Pedro's primary hurricane shelter is the Roman Catholic Primary School and the San Pedro Emergency Committee can be reached at the town hall by calling 226-2198. Also mentioned was the task of educating the public as to what items can or cannot be brought with them to the shelter. It was announced that an updated list of these supplies is to be published by the government in countrywide newspapers sometime in the near future.

    Another item on the meeting's agenda included new contact numbers for reaching SPEC members. On this subject, Mr. Janmohamed informed members that, for the duration of the hurricane season, they must notify the San Pedro Police Department whenever they plan to leave the island so that an alternate officer can be arranged to take their place in the event of an emergency. The members are: Chairperson/Area Representative Patty Arceo; Vice Chair/Mayor Alberto Nuñez, Operations Officer Jim Janmohamed, Transportation Member Debbie Spain, Evacuation Officers Thomas Young and Wayne Young, Tourist Representative Francisco Rejon, Supplies Member Pedro Vasquez, Communications Member Jim Diehl, Belize Electricity Ltd. Officer Chris Nuñez, Belize Water Services Member, Aaron Locke assisted by Jim Kavanaugh of Belize Water Limited, Belize Telecommunications Ltd. Technicians in Charge Aaron Hendricks and Charles Usher, Police Representative - Inspector of Police Linden Flowers, BDF Liaison - to be announced, Medical Officers - Nurse Natalie Palen, Health Inspector Javier Alpuche and Dr. Giovanni Solorzano, Shelter Member/BDF Staff - to be announced and Fire Service Representative Andrew Nunez.

    The Operations Officer also informed The Sun that a mock emergency evacuation drill is planned for next month, but the date is yet to be announced. The island's business community is asked to form an emergency plan with their staff in order to be ready in case of a hurricane. The general public can assist the San Pedro Emergency Committee by starting NOW to prepare for an emergency. Mr. Janmohamed suggested everyone begin to put away a little money, to purchase plywood in advance, and to compile important documents in a waterproof bag for easy access in an evacuation. More of these suggestions and other helpful hints will be featured in future issues of The San Pedro Sun throughout the hurricane season.

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