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CDEMA Prepared To Assist In Hurricane Season

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by Shanna Moore

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has declared it is fully prepared to offer support to the region amid predictions of an active hurricane season.

Speaking at the regional agency’s annual press briefing on the region’s preparedness in St Kitts on Tuesday, the executive director Elizabeth Riley outlined CDEMA’s comprehensive preparedness measures, highlighting the significance of its Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) in coordinating disaster responses.

“The RRM is our very unique arrangement with participating states as well as regional and international organisations and militaries, delivering timely and coordinated responses to affected participating states upon their requests,” she said. “It’s the only arrangement like this that exists globally, and we have many regions around the world, including a delegation from the African [small island developing states], who will be visiting Barbados this week to study the RRM.”

Riley noted that in preparation for potential activations of the RRM, CDEMA has trained additional members for teams such as the CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit to support humanitarian operations, which is ready for deployment.

She also highlighted recent advancements in search and rescue capabilities: “We had 36 persons who were trained across the CDEMA states last year, bringing the number of trained persons to 60. We also upgraded the deployment kits and are in the process of procuring additional search and rescue equipment for these regional teams.”

The executive director said a critical focus was communication improvements within CDEMA. 

“We have nine additional Starlink internet satellite terminals and six solar generators for use by our teams. We have also expanded the number of cell phones and laptops for deployment and have 20 GPS units and additional power supplies,” she said. “This is very important because communication is usually one of the critical areas impacted after events.”

Riley noted that CDEMA has already concluded several preparatory exercises and said new partnerships have bolstered its logistical capabilities, noting the agency recently signed a memorandum of understanding with King Ocean Services Limited, a cargo shipping company, to “provide cargo transportation services for the movement of supplies, ensuring immediate and coordinated response to regional disasters”.

CDEMA’s collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, formalised on May 2, also provides air and maritime logistic support.

“CDEMA continues to maintain a heightened state of operational readiness within the region,” Riley said. “We encourage our participating states to utilise the suite of resources available through the CDEMA system.

“We pledge to continue engaging and collaborating with national, regional, and international partners to build the resilience of the region and combat the threats posed by the multi-hazards which threaten our states. We wish a safe passage through this year’s hurricane season but should anything happen, where your capacities at the national levels are exceeded, CDEMA is prepared and ready to assist you.”

Meantime, responding to inquiries about the intersection of an impending hurricane season and logistical hurdles, the CDEMA boss assured that despite global supply chain challenges, the agency is confident in its ability to provide stocks of food and vital supplies to the region if disaster hits.

“There are specific mitigation measures that have been put in place. The national arrangements are usually made at the level of the private sector to ensure that there are minimum quantities of stock that are always on island during the hurricane season,” she said.

“In addition, many of our regional partners maintain regional stocks, sometimes co-located in the sub-regional warehouses, and at the national level, there are also national stocks that are maintained. So, there is an initial arrangement to ensure that there are stocks immediately available to be provided.”

Riley added: “We always assist each other and we’ve seen this work in a very positive way, even in the midst of COVID when I think we were at the height of the challenges with the supply chain issues, and in 2021, when we had the volcanic eruption in St Vincent…. A delta wave was passing through at that time and we were able to mobilise relief efforts
within the participating states and use our partners, private sector as well as military partners, to ensure the delivery of those stocks.” 

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