RBDF officer: Dorian response could have been better

Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Chief Petty Officer Oral Wood said yesterday that the government’s response to Hurricane Dorian could have made more of an impact had the efforts been better coordinated.

He said government agencies too often work in silos, which hampers productivity. He also said that he believes more Bahamian first responders should have been on the ground in the hurricane-affected areas.

“There’s always room for improvement,” he said.

“When you take into consideration, we do have subject matter experts, we have persons that are skilled. But what has happened in my estimation is that we have not brought all of the stakeholders together.

“You can’t accomplish anything without bringing all of the necessary persons to bear. That has not happened as best as possible, simply because we operate in silos.

“We have lots of government agencies and all of the government agencies – police, defense force, customs, immigration, etc. – we have skillsets, but until you bring all of the skillsets together and somebody coordinated to make sure that they work together, we are still limited in what we can do.

“And that is what I’m finding has actually taken place.

“We have a limited amount of persons on the ground even as we speak. Our counterparts, the U.S., U.K., persons from the Dutch military, they outnumber the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Bahamian first responders on the ground. While we expect that to be so based on their sheer numbers, we expected that more of us should have and could have been on the ground and if that was the case, we would have accomplished so much more.

“So, if we can get the government agencies to just back away and move away from operating in silos and put their best foot forward, so to speak, their skilled persons, subject matter experts, out front, we can accomplish a whole lot more.”

Dorian left parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama in ruin after it made landfall as one of the strongest hurricanes on record in the Atlantic. Foreign countries and international agencies have been critical in the response to the storm.

Wood said that if the government’s coordination efforts aren’t improved, there could be some issues when those international agencies begin to pull out of the country.

“There has to be some concern, but it’s expected, and my concern comes just due to the fact that there may be a case where we are overwhelmed if we do not come together and get rid of the silos,” he said.

“As long as the Bahamian people come together, no matter who pulls out and leaves, we can bridge the gap, but it all depends on us coming together as a society and saying, ‘Listen, we have special aid, they are now gone. Let us now come together, work at it and bridge those gaps.”

He added, “We have got to understand that this is ours. This is our fight, and we have to make it happen.”

While Wood said there has been some mental health support, he called for more resources for responders.

“While it’s available, it’s not as available as it should be, because anyone being deployed should get something before,” he said.

“It should be on the ground there and after, and while it may happen for some, it’s not happening for all of them, or not necessarily as fast as is needed.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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