Tradewinds '98 conducts hurricane evacuation exercise

One eyed, broken leg, pregnant woman being evacuated

Exercise Tradewinds 1998 and the Government of Belize have embarked on a nationwide disaster evacuation exercise. The first evacuation exercise was conducted in San Pedro Town on Thursday, April 23rd, 1998. The objective of the excercise was to successfully transport residents off the island to a safe shelter in Belize City.

The evacuation scenario was that a hurricane was heading for Belize and residence had to be evacuated to Belize City where they would be safe until the hurricane passed. At about 10:00 a.m. while most people were at work or going about their daily activities at home, about 50 people, mostly primary school teachers and students, gathered at Central Park to be evacuated to Belize City.

Officials in charge of the evacuation included: Lieutenant Jan Forman of the department of Civil Affairs in the U.S. Army and other U.S. Army officers, Inspector Alvan Gentle of the Belize Police Force and officers of the San Pedro Police Department, officials from the Grenada and Jamaica office of Disaster Preparedness and National Disaster Coordination, and members of the Metro-Dade Fire Rescue Department in Miami, Florida.

Evacuees were instructed to act as they would if there was truly a hurricane heading to Belize. They were instructed to act hysterical and afraid. Some members of the evacuation group were bandaged and covered with fake blood and acted as if they were injured. One woman was stuffed with a backpack and pretended to be pregnant, and suffering from an injured eye and a broken leg. At 10:00 a.m. sharp San Pedro Fire Department personnel started their sirens and the evacuees ran, walked, screamed and moaned their way over to the government pier were they boarded the "rescue boat" the Andrea. Evacuees' names and ages were recorded after which the journey to Belize City commenced. The boat ride took about an hour and a half, during which time, the seven month pregnant lady gave birth to a premature baby boy backpack.

In Belize City the Andrea docked at the Fiesta Inn Marina and the evacuees were transported to the St. Mary's Parish Hall where Tradewinds officials made sure that everyone that boarded the boat in San Pedro made it to Belize City. The evacuees were then given packages of Army food, water and a T-shirt for participating in the exercise. At 3:00 p.m. the evacuees were transported back to San Pedro Town.

In August of 1997 the Disaster Evacuation Exercise plan was approved by the Government of Belize. It took about 8 months for Tradewinds '98 and the Government to organize the exercise. Other exercises carried out around the country included a bus accident in Ladyville, a flood evacuation in Cayo, a Maritime Search and Rescue off Caye Caulker, a chemical spill off St. George's Caye and a fire at a gas station in Dangriga. Tradewinds '98 U.S. Army officers were also in San Pedro Town during the last week carrying out search and rescue exercises. Armed with guns and dressed in camouflage, the officers performed several exercises; they searched "suspicious" characters, rousted "drug dealers" and acted out several other scenarios as a part of their training.

Tradewinds '98 conducts hurricane evacuation exercise

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San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize News