Planning for the Hurricane Season Amid COVID-19
By Dr Barbara Carby, Director of Disaster Risk Reduction Centre, The University of the West Indies
(Jamaica Observer) The start of the May rains reminds us that the threat of floods and, shortly, the hurricane season, must now start to occupy the minds of the region’s disaster risk management apparatus. This may seem daunting in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic which is already stretching resources, but a necessary element in the nation’s planning exercise.
The economic impact of the pandemic will negatively affect response and recovery should countries suffer a weather-related disaster. In view of the April forecast by Colorado State University, which suggests there will be above normal activity for the 2020 North Atlantic season, the region must now start planning for the very real possibility of managing two major events concurrently.
Difficult though it may seem, all the usual preparatory activities for the hurricane season must take place. The use of technology will be very important. In the lead-up to the season, national disaster offices must figure out how to plan and execute training and simulation exercises remotely. The ongoing pandemic presents a unique opportunity for response systems to be tested by the simulated event while managing a major real event. It also provides the opportunity for testing national coordination and communication systems as multiple response operations should be coordinated out of the national emergency operations centre, with satellite command centres reporting in to the national command centre.
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