Chief Welfare Officer Leroy Morvan
Chief Welfare Officer Leroy Morvan

The National Emergency Planning Organization (NEPO) works hand in hand with the Office of Disaster Management, ODM, to help the country prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

NEPO consists of seven subcommittees, each with a specific area of response before and after a disaster.

Hurricane Maria of 2017 caught the country with its pants down and exposed several flaws in the organizations meant to help citizens bounce back from the impact. To be fair though, Hurricane Maria did exceed expectations, and some argue there was no way to fully prepare for the effects of that storm.

As the Hurricane season progresses, Sun Newspaper will seek to speak with the heads of the NEPO sub-committees to get a better idea of how Maria impacted them and how they are prepared for the 2021 Hurricane Season.

Firstly, the Welfare and Relief Supplies Subcommittee (WRSS) is headed by Chief Welfare Officer Leroy Morvan and it consists of 18 entities from government and non-governmental organizations.

WRSS is responsible for determining how many people in each village are to be fed in the event of a disaster. The subcommittee is also responsible for moving the elderly, disabled, and vulnerable individuals to safer locations if needs be.

One of the greatest challenges faced by WRSS during the 2020 hurricane season was the lack of full membership at planning meetings, to finalize and come to a consensus on recommendations and actions to be taken for the season. However, Morvan said he was pleased to report to The SUN that this is not the case for the 2021 hurricane season.

"The Welfare and Relief Supplies Subcommittee was well prepared," he confirmed proudly, "in that all members of the committee listened to instructions, warnings, and other public information by the national radio station and other reliable and available means," he said.

One of the weaknesses highlighted by Hurricane Maria was the method and efficiency of food and relief supplies distribution. There were several complaints of supplies not reaching certain communities, while others said that only some in a particular area benefited from the goods which were shared out.

In order to tackle this problem, the WRSS said it had taken action on relief supplies available for distribution.

"The ascertaining of stock of supplies at the following storerooms: Red Cross R.E.A.C.H and Social Centre," Morvan said was of utmost importance to the committee and completed in time for the 2021 hurricane season.

As regards the moving of vulnerable individuals to shelters or families with resilient homes, the officials said the committee is "not sleeping on themselves" in this area.

"Checklists of emergency shelters, wardens, assistant wardens are with the Local Government Commissioner," Morvan said. "Lists of local village disaster committees, and ascertaining are also with Local Government Commissioner."

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season has been forecast to be above average with 13 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 8 could become hurricanes with 3 to 5 developing into major hurricanes (category 4 or 5).

By the second week in July, the region had already seen five named storms with one developing into a hurricane.

We hear the meteorologists continuously say 'it only takes one'. That 'one' for Dominica was Hurricane Maria almost four years ago.

Morvan said the key takeaways from that deadly storm include: "Not to take any weather system warning lightly no matter how weak or strong."

"The committee should always be prepared in or out of the hurricane season," Morvan said, "since hurricanes are not our only threat."

As far as recommendations to improve the functioning of the Subcommittee, Morvan had this to say "all subcommittees must work in close collaboration so as to avoid duplication of process."

While the country prays to be spared during the Hurricane Season, let's hope the subcommittees heed this call and work together to ensure the swift recovery of the nation should a weather system make landfall.