Thursday, October 10, 2019
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
HURRICANE Dorian brought on a “new phenomena” for Grand Bahama and the northern Bahamas, according to Assistant Commissioner of Police Samuel Butler who admits having to abandon their pre-storm police plans in order to save lives.
He said that nothing could have prepared him for it as they too found themselves at the mercy of the monster storm when their command centre at the Gerald Bartlett Police Headquarters Complex in Freeport was flooded by surge.
The police chief lost 90 percent of their police vehicles the day of the storm.
“I would definitely mark this as the greatest challenge I have ever experienced in my life of policing,” he told The Tribune on Wednesday.
“I certainly have been in a whole lot of other ordeals, but there was nothing like Hurricane Dorian, and I don’t think that there is nothing that would have been able to truly prepare you to deal with it,” said the 35-year veteran of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Mr Butler further said: “We had specific plans ahead of Dorian through many police briefings and with NEMA. We thought we had it all together; we had to quickly abandon the police plan and we had to do what made sense to save lives. Even at the risk of our own lives we had to go out there and do what we had to do to help as best we could,” he recalled.
Mr Butler believes that there are many lessons to be learned by everyone from Dorian.
After devastating Abaco, Dorian made its way to Grand Bahama and pummelled the island for some 40 hours with winds of over 155mph and brought 20ft storm surge. It left widespread destruction in its wake on September 2.
To date nine bodies have been recovered and 30 persons are still missing on Grand Bahama.
“I am certain we would have learned if we did not learn lessons from any other event as it relates to hurricanes. Dorian certainly brought on a new phenomena for GB and the northern Bahamas, and Abaco as well. And I believe that based on this new norm when an announcement is given in the future, I believe we will definitely have people heeding to it.
Although evacuation orders were given for residents in East Grand Bahama, many remained and lives were lost as a result and 30 others are still missing.
In one East End community alone, 14 persons were swept away by surge in the High Rock area and are still missing.
ACP Butler stressed that when an official (evacuation) notification is given, it is coming from experts that understand the nature of weather.
“You are to be responsive to it as it, certainly, could help save your life and the life of your family,” he said.
Mr Butler also recognized those members of the public who assisted in rescuing persons during the storm. He stressed that the police could not have done it alone.
“I really want to give strong credit to members of the community as so many of them were out there alongside us. The police could not have done it alone. There were so many out there helping to remove people to safety and lending equipment, jet skis, small craft vessels, and heavy duty equipment to ride through high water.
“When there are events like this, we always like to see that kind of community spirit; there were persons there with us and we thank members of the community for doing what they have done, and even risking their own lives to go out and help.”
“You only had to be there in the middle of that event and see any number of mothers dragging their children to safety leaving their households. I am really grateful for those assets that came to our assistance as things could have been much worse had it not been for the community spirit and support. I have nothing other than great credit for those persons who came out to assist their brothers and sisters at such a time,” he said.
ACP Butler said he was very pleased with the performance of the police department.
He noted that over 200 officers were affected by the storm, losing their vehicles, homes, and property, and are still reporting to work to ensure that the Grand Bahama community is safe. He added that they also lost two police stations in the East End area.
He said that since losing about 90 percent of their police vehicles, they are now using rented vehicles for daily patrols in various communities and the business areas of Grand Bahama.