Photo: Stakeholders attending the CEMO symposium
by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 1, 2023
As Belize enters the 2023 hurricane season, beginning June 1, Belize City has geared up for its preparedness and response efforts with the “Building Disaster Resilience Symposium”. This important event, hosted by the Belize City Council and City Emergency Management Organization (CEMO) at Belize Biltmore Plaza on May 31, was led by Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Michael Norales.
In attendance were critical stakeholders such as the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO); Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL); Belize Electricity Limited (BEL); the National Meteorological Center; Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management; and the Belize Red Cross. Each organization brought expertise and innovative perspectives to build a resilient Belize City.
The symposium was not just a preview of the hurricane season, but also a reflective session on the lessons learned from Hurricane Lisa that swept the city in the previous year. Over 1,000 city residents took refuge in shelters during Hurricane Lisa, emphasizing the importance of an effective shelter management system.
“It is always in the area of shelter, shelter management, ensuring we communicate with those shelter managers and working along with national coordinators, because we at the city level are only responsible at the city, so many times you will find that the information coming from the national organization comes in a bit late,” Mayor Bernard Wagner told reporters.
Consequently, a focal point of the event was to strengthen this very area, ensuring the availability and readiness of sufficient shelters for future hurricanes.
Melanie Dawson, the CEMO Liaison Officer at the Belize City Council, delivered an overview of the city’s recovery efforts following Hurricane Lisa. Dawson noted that a whopping 63,630 tons of solid waste were removed from the city streets during the cleanup operation, a task that was achieved in collaboration with several stakeholders.
“This collaboration, I would say, because without having help from the different stakeholders we couldn’t manage cleaning up the city on a very swift movement like we did,” she explained. This remarkable achievement has now been confirmed as a national record by NEMO.
An estimated $500,000, Wagner says, was the cost of the total relief and supplies invested in the aftercare of Lisa’s wrath. This was reimbursed by the central government. The distribution of this relief had to be done in a quick and efficient manner, contrary to the normal process of filling out forms.
“People don’t want any long process where you have to fill out a form to get relief and supplies. It is burdensome to the people. We have to simplify the process for relief and supplies. It has to be that we go to the people, and that is how we at the city did our relief and supplies; we ensured we went into the communities with the relief and supplies,” Wagner said.
With a focus on collaboration and strengthening key areas of disaster management, Belize City shows its commitment and preparedness for the hurricane season of 2023.
The Hurricane names released for this year’s 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season are: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harold, Idalia, Jose, Katia, Lee, Margot, Nigel, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, and Whitney.