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Are we ready for hurricane season?

Another hurricane season is upon us and we have no indication that the government has a plan to address another disaster even close to the magnitude of Hurricane Dorian.

Given the failures of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) during the past administration, which created it, there was hope that the Davis administration would prove more adept at dealing with the challenges facing Abaco and Grand Bahama.

All hope in that regard is gone.

The DRA has been a non-factor in Abaco and Grand Bahama for some time, with its Homeowner Assistance and Relief Program seeing middling results.

At last report, a few homes of elderly citizens were repaired, but the vast majority of people who were left displaced by Hurricane Dorian have not felt any significant impact.

It is unclear why the DRA has been so ineffective, but there is no dodging that is has been.

The government made great fanfare late last year when it passed the Disaster Risk Management Act.

That act repealed the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act of 2008 and the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Act of 2019.

It was also supposed to form the Disaster Risk Management Authority.

The new act was supposed to establish the Disaster Risk Management Authority, which would replace the National Emergency Management Agency and the Disaster Reconstruction Authority.

During debate on the Disaster Risk Management Bill, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Myles LaRoda said “the government of The Bahamas accepts that we must do all that is necessary to ensure that comprehensive disaster management policies and strategies address all aspects of the disaster management cycle: prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery”.

“Investing in preparedness and disaster risk reduction is much cheaper than in response. We must not wait for disasters to occur and then act, but take disaster risk reduction seriously; it reduces losses of lives, livelihood, and property,” LaRoda said.

He also promised broad public engagement with regard to formulating policy.

“We believe in improving knowledge and innovation to mitigate the risks of natural hazards and building a culture for disaster resilience,” he said.

“The legislation also makes provisions to support a whole of government approach to disaster risk management, especially the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change across the different sectors and through all levels of government, through information sharing, cooperation, and joint planning, as appropriate, and to govern the declaration of disaster situations and ensure disaster response operations are adequate, and to facilitate the entry and coordination of international humanitarian assistance when required during a disaster situation, and to establish an Emergency Fund.”

Speaking to the bill in the House last year, Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said the former administration’s handling of the aftermath of Dorian was “one of the most shameful things to have occurred in our history.”

“I don’t recall another instance where in the face of such tragedy, such grace was given, such bounty of generosity offered and such goodwill and hope were given so freely only to be squandered so thoroughly by an administration of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” Cooper said.

“The people of Abaco and Grand Bahama were failed beyond measure by the Minnis administration – some call it the menace administration – and we are left here to pick up the pieces of the disaster that was the Disaster Reconstruction Authority.”

While Cooper is not wrong about the former administration, the national discussion promised by the current administration has been non-existent.

Last we checked, the Disaster Risk Management Authority has not been formed and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) still very much exists.

NEMA is tasked with formulating an annual plan.

If it has, there is no public record of it.

Neither has there been a release of the national shelters list.

Despite a recent press conference, NEMA and the DRA provided an unsatisfactory update on the country’s level of preparedness for the season.

Thirteen named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes are predicted this season.

Very few people could tell you, or care for that matter, how many storms were predicted when hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma and Dorian hit.

The Davis administration has a prime minister and a minister of state responsible for natural disaster response, yet there is no inkling of what such a response would look like.

God forbid a hurricane hits us this season and this administration proves as inept as the last one.