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CEMO ready to brave the storm

June 1 marked the beginning of the hurricane season which runs until the end of November.  It is expected that this will be a near or above normal season with 10 to16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes. Today, the City Emergency Management Organization, CEMO held a press conference where Mayor Bernard Wagner shared CEMO’s plans in case the city is faced with a hurricane. Wagner said that the CEMO team is very experienced and residents should be comforted by this.

Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: We have the Transport and Evacuation Committee CEMO has revised the evacuation route we have revisited it and revised it and added additional personnel to coordinate and track evacuees from the offshore islands throughout Belize City to inland shelters. So this is what we have been doing. we have identified additional new pickup points for persons residing in high crime and populated areas and we’ve also devised a tsunami plan to ensure because we are never out of the woods with disasters, we at CEMO had to ensure we put in place some sort of plans to address tsunamis. We’ve also put in place a new subcommittee which is a security subcommittee which offers safety and security for citizens in emergencies. Summary of some of some of the activities we have conducted for the upcoming hurricane season. CEMO has held strategic planning meetings in January with staff to draft the CEMO 2018 yearly calendar of activities. They’ve held monthly planning meetings with stakeholders from both public and the private sector. They’ve revised, updated the hurricane plan and to date the plan stands at 90% completed. We have revised and update CEMO public awareness, this is key we have to continue to have this public awareness programs especially in our schools for greater coverage and promotion. We have visited schools in Belize City and in February CEMO held it’s disaster preparedness symposium which Mr.Usher organized, a very critical symposium. Out of that they were able to come up with a symposium online resource which is a document that can be found at the National Library Service which provides information on the entire CEMO structure. We also conducted our annual shelter inspection, another important exercise in the entire process and this was done on February 26th and 27th 2018. Overall we have five northside shelters; Trinity Methodist school, Teachers College UB Campus, All Saints School, UB Engineering Building, Pallotti High School. While on the south side we have St.Luke Methodist School, St.Martin De Porres School, St.John Vianney School, Salvation Army School, Grace Primary, Queen Square Anglican School, Maud Williams High School, Unity Presbyterian School.”

Wagner said that CEMO is seeking to use the Belize Civic Center as its emergency operation center; however, they have encountered some challenges in obtaining it.

Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “The Emergency Operation Center, and we are continuing to make arrangements for the setting up of it’s operation headquarters for this hurricane season at the Belize City Center Sporting Complex I was told it should be Belize Civic Center Sporting Complex. We are still facing challenges there obviously, we met with the NEMO coordinator and he had indicated to us that if CEMO request that we use the Belize Civic Center so it will be so yesterday I forwarded a letter to the NEMO coordinator to address that matter. We’ve had some challenges there we first kicked out of the Charles Bartlett Building and then sent to ITVET. ITVET again after inspection we found that it was not worthy, it probably could not withstand any sort of hurricane damages. We were forwarded then to the Gateway Center but again the CEMO group felt that this Gateway Center did not meet our standards so we are aiming our efforts that the headquarters of the EOC be at the Belize Civic Center. I’m hoping that for the love of the city and for the love of the city residents that intelligence again will continue to prevail and that we look out for the residents of the city that we stop playing politics and elections are over we need to look out and care for our city residents especially in an emergency we cannot at no time be playing games. In disaster we should display color blindness that is my view and I look forward that our leaders continue to show mature leadership and look at our residents and have them be the focal point in any decision making.”

The mayor said apart from establishing shelters, they have also made arrangements with the bus owners in case the need arises for the city to be evacuated.