Prime Minister Christie gets first hand accounts from NEMA officials this morning…

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The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA fully activated its emergency operations centre to closely monitory and track Hurricane Sandy as it impact The Bahamas. Pictured from left are the Rt Hon Perry Christie, Prime Minister, Captain Stephen Russell, Director, NEMA; and Trevor Basden, Deputy Director, Department of Meteorology. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Prime Minister the Rt Hon Perry Christie commended the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA and its Emergency Support Function groupings for its work especially during a disaster period.

He made the statement during a visit at NEMA’s emergency operations centre in the Churchill Building where the path of Hurricane Sandy was being tracked as it threatened the Islands of The Bahamas on Thursday, October 25, 2012.

At the time of the Prime Minister’s visit around 12:30pm, the Category 2 Hurricane Sandy was dumping heavy rain over Exuma. Other islands, which experienced hurricane conditions at the time, were Ragged Island, Long Island, and Rum Cay. And tropical storm conditions were felt in Crooked Island and Acklins.

The administrator in San Salvador Harvey Roberts reported that there were 307 guests at the Club Med resort, who were made comfortable while the island weathered strong winds and heavy rain.

The Prime Minister admonished residents to do well and that “very exciting” developments are about to take place on San Salvador.

He said one of the most serious obligations a country has to its citizens is their protection in the face of potential disasters.

In this vein, an important aspect of preparation is the continuity of exposure for those who continue to work in the area of disaster management, he said.

“If we change every year the personnel then we will not have the time to build capacity as needed. One can never thank you enough for doing this,” the Prime Minister said.

He also spoke to the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act, 2006, which governs, NEMA and the legal framework in which is it to perform its functions.

“The Act governing NEMA places a lot of obligation on the head man (Captain Russell). You have to make decisions that impact peoples’ freedom and make judgments that impacts the economy,” the Prime Minister said.

The Act provides for a more effective organization of the mitigation of preparedness for, response to and recovery from emergencies and disasters, amongst other things.

“The question is that when one gives the directive during a disaster, whether that directive is followed. We must continue to track the developments of the country to see whether we have the kind of authority to protect the country and its assets,” the Prime Minister said.

He observed that Captain Russell has the responsibility of knowing the Act and the areas that are vulnerable in The Bahamas, where actions should be taken on an incremental basis to make those areas less defenseless to disasters.

“The country has to depend on the continuity that you public officers and volunteers make to this country.  Captain Russell you are deserving of more support in terms of what the law permits.  It is an incredibly important function that you have,” the Prime Minister said.

The Emergency Support Function groupings are made up of personnel from essential services such as health, the police force, the defence force, water and electricity corporations, social services and other relevant public and private agencies.