USNORTHCOM collaborates with Bahamas on hurricane response


In the wake of historic Hurricane Dorian in 2019, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) provided critical support for relief efforts in the Bahamas.

Dorian, a Category 5 storm that packed 185-mph winds when it made landfall, was the strongest hurricane to hit the northwestern Bahamas on modern record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Dorian was responsible for an estimated U.S. $3.4 billion worth of damages to Bahamian infrastructure according to NOAA, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported September 1, 2021.

The recently concluded Restoration Island Cays, a disaster-response exercise conducted by USNORTHCOM and the Bahamas’ National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), sharpened the archipelago nation’s readiness in the event of another Dorian. It was the fourth iteration of Restoration Island Cays — an annual whole-of-government undertaking that tests the Bahamian response to a Category 5 storm.

The official hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, although August, September and early October often are the months of highest activity, according to the National Hurricane Center.

During Restoration Island Cays, NEMA staffers in the National Emergency Operations Centre worked with emergency-support personnel from several Bahamian ministries and agencies, according to a June 27, 2022, news release from the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas.

In response to simulated disasters in the archipelago, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RNDF) set up a portion of the temporary modular sheltering system donated by USNORTHCOM in 2020, according to the embassy news release. This was the first time the scenario required the RBDF to use the donated equipment.

U.S. experts in humanitarian assistance and disaster response helped facilitate Restoration Island Cays, which focused on collaboration and interoperability between Bahamian agencies and validated the whole-of-government crisis response, according to the embassy news release. Some of the training included:

  • The Royal Bahamas Police Force led the Flood Water Rescue team on the island of Great Exuma.
  • The Wildland Firefighting team exercised its response on Mayaguana.
  • NEMA practiced moving relief supplies from the U.S. Department of Defense-donated warehouse onto the HMBS Lawrence Major auxiliary vessel.

“This exercise highlights the strength of the U.S.-Bahamas relationship,” the embassy news release said, “and reinforces the United States’ commitment to our Bahamian neighbors, who are key partners in responding to disasters.”