The hurricane season is upon us and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed 21 potential storm names on Wednesday ahead of 2019’s season, set to begin June 1. AccuWeather’s predictions were released midweek, and 2019 is expected to be more active than a typical season, but not as dynamic as the last two seasons. Coastal Central American countries, particularly Belize must keep in a state of readiness prior to the first storms to hit the Atlantic. Today the Belize Coast Guard (BCG) has been executing a series of maneuvers to keep mentally fit and operationally sound. Love News spoke to the men and women entrusted to keep the coastal areas and islands secured during and after storms have passed.
Jose Sanchez: “The Belize Coast Guard is conducting a hurricane preparedness exercise to test the state of readiness of the BCG in responding to a hurricane and natural disasters. Fleet Commander Lieutenant Gregory Soberanis explains the need for the drill.”
Fleet Commander Lieutenant Gregory Soberanis: “We have all the units involved and an exercise like this we look at our strengths, our weaknesses, threats and also opportunities so we are doing a full assessment identifying those gaps and those vulnerabilities. Looking at how we can enhance our system, structures, and mechanisms that we have in place in order to be effective and efficient to conduct search and rescue out at sea. To be able to assist communities in the case of natural disasters.”
Jose Sanchez: The coastal areas and the islands have been divided into different sectors and each sector is meticulously managed. Lieutenant Freddy Ku is the Commander of Sector South.”
Lt. Freddy Ku – Commander, Sector South, BCG: “Our areas responsibility covers from the Sarstoon down to Hunting Caye which is approximately 35 nautical miles from Punta Gorda and north up to Dangriga so we focus mainly on the coastal communities, islands, and cayes that are populated. We have five operating bases: We have the one at Hunting Caye, one at Sarstoon, one in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, one at sea and one with Glovers. What we have here are the sector coast guard members that we have there, members that are available, peronsel that are deployed and vessels at each location. If you look here we have our southern coastal community leaders phone numbers where we can communicate with the chairmen, chairlady and coordinate assistance for those communities. Then we have our partner agencies down south with Tide, CWS, and Fisheries Punta Gorda. We have the police, BDF and NEMO representatives down south. The main areas that we have to look to provide assistance is Barranco which has a population of approximately 120 persons, Punta Negra which has a population of about thirty persons and Monkey River so those are areas that whenever we have a hurricane and depending on the phases we have tasks that we have to execute during those phases so that is what we are putting to test at the moment.
Jose Sanchez: “Esign Shawdi Reyes has the most urban populated area Belize City to coordinate.”
Ensign Shawdi Reyes Sector Commander Central BCG: “My area would be the set at the Belize City Harbor and one hundred and sixty miles out then we have the Turneffe Islands and we also have the Lighthouse Reef. Station Belize City will primarily be in charge of the harbor itself while Sector central will be in charge of the Turneffe islands in the Lighthouse Reef. We have sixty-three persons in our sector, we have who is deployed at the moment and we have the NGO’s of whom we work phone numbers within case there is an emergency, if we need to call them or we need to liaise with them how we will maneuver the people and move the people from one area to another. Here we have a chart, within this chart, we have marked the areas where Coast Guard personnel are presently. From there they will either move directed by the respective commanders or they will move to respective locations and inform people that there is a hurricane and that they need to come in.”
Lt. John Diego – Sector Commander North BCG: “I am the sector commander for sector north which includes from our headquarters here all the way up to Corozal, San Pedro and so on. This exercise right now, what you are seeing on this chart depicts our recall system for everybody within my sector which is approximately sixty-three persons within my sector. The recall system comprises of where these people live, phone numbers, contact numbers so if we need to contact them, when we need to contact them we can call them and we can know exactly where they are. My vessel status, my fuel status, the contact numbers for people at Nemo and my radar so basically what I am responsible for is to work along with the EOC, NEMO representatives in San Pedro, Caye Caulker so that we can save lives and property in the event of any pending storm or disaster.”
Lt. Gregory Soberanis – Fleet Commander BCG: “This is a critical and important exercise that is conducted annually and it really enables us to be better at how we operate during a storm or a hurricane.”
Jose Sanchez: “Now it is the only residence that needs to prepare and review their storm plan. Jose Sanchez for Love News.”