It was an appalling case of a failure to communicate.
There was confusion across the island of Grand Bahama on Monday morning when local emergency officials and island-based government representatives conflicted with the national “All Clear” report given earlier.
The report in question was in conjunction with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) office and the Meteorological main center in the capital. Yet on the ground here, even the NEMA representative in GB, Tammi Mitchell, seemed alarmed that the report was given from the capital, obviously without proper consultation as to the real situation in this island and Bimini.
We consider the lapse a serious protocol breakdown, an indictment against NEMA.
The communications system under which NEMA is supposed to operate was breached in our view. We say, NEMA committed a protocol violation. Mitchell, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Iram Lewis who is based in Grand Bahama, and Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister here on the island, Senator Kwasi Thompson, tried to sound diplomatic, but it was clear they were frustrated, perhaps annoyed.
It was Thompson who finally went live on ZNS Radio and announced that as of 9 a.m. on Monday, September 11, the “All Clear” status would be in place for Grand Bahama in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma that was continuing its path of destruction and severe damages in Florida.
Shortly prior to Thompson’s much-awaited announcement, Kirk James who is in charge of the Met Office in GB, informed that the tropical warning for the Northern Bahamas had been discontinued.
What clearly was not taken into consideration by the NEMA and MET head offices was the tornado activity in Grand Bahama and the heightening of the wind force. Homes received tornado damages. Winds upwards of 60 miles per hour buffeted Grand Bahama from mid-afternoon on Sunday, well into early Monday morning.
It was therefore necessary for the emergency teams in Grand Bahama to do a thorough assessment on Monday morning before declaring whether conditions merited the “All Clear” declaration.
Lewis and Mitchell complained about the oversight and Thompson issued a bit of a reprimand statement. He said a better job must be done in the future regarding the protocol related to national disasters. He said “national persons” should first speak to local authorities and emergency officials on the ground in respective areas before giving the “All Clear” sign for the entire country.
Employers and Employees were in a limbo state. Bosses could not demand the presence of workers because of the confusion, and even the most dedicated employees were in a quandary because of the warnings from local authorities, for them to stay off the street.
Finally with Thompson’s official “All Clear” pronouncement, a common understanding prevailed.
We expect that at some point soon, NEMA will make a statement regarding the “All Clear” confusion created.