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Hurricane Preparedness in the Age of COVID-19


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): How does the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) prepare for a natural disaster in the time of COVID-19?

That was the topic on the Friday, June 18 edition of “Voices” on WINN.

Vesta Southwell, Public Relations Officer for NEMA, said subcommittees discuss steps to be taken before, during, and after a storm or hurricane.

Southwell confirmed that COVID-19 is pushing NEMA to focus on online messaging and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Oureika Lennon-Petty, Planning officer for NEMA said the organization started doing virtual exercises last year.

“We participated in Caribe Wave as we do every year, and we actually had a virtual tabletop exercise for that, and it went well. We had about 100 participants…

Normally we test the public, but this year we decided to test the stakeholders and because it was virtual, it enabled us to have an unlimited number of guests … sometimes physically being in a physical space presents its challenges in terms of the capacity of how [many] persons can fit in that one space. But, we do not have that limitation with the virtual platform… that’s one benefit of having our hurricane preparedness done virtually,” explained Lennon-Petty.

To modernize the messaging capabilities of NEMA, Southwell said that the agency is putting some focus on its Youtube channel to reach a wider and greater audience.

Lennon-Petty said videos of hurricane preparedness tips are a work in progress

“We have also started doing some videos that you’ll be seeing shortly. The communications unit… will be producing some video shorts of Hurricane preparedness tips… we started doing hurricane preparedness a bit differently, a bit virtually, a bit more hands-off, but we are still doing the best we can and trying to reach as [many people] as possible.”

We are in another COVID-19 affected Hurricane season and the current spread within the Federation requires communication of a different caliber to reach all who could be affected by a natural disaster, officials concurred.


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