by Krystal McKenzie
In photo: Chief Inspector Alex Rollin
All levels of staff at the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) have a tough job at the best of times. While they are not necessarily the primary first responders you think of when it comes to a hurricane, they are equally on guard as the hospital, fire station and others, taking direction from the Emergency Measures Organisation to get us safely through the storm.
The Royal Gazette spoke with Chief Inspector Alex Rollin about how the BPS operates for hurricane preparedness and what it’s like for him and his fellow officers:
Royal Gazette: When a hurricane may be approaching, what precautions/changes are made in your department to ensure that everything runs smoothly should it hit?
Alex Rollin: There’s a general checklist that we go through across the board:
- Generators checked
- Ensure fleet is fuelled up
- Check all first aid kits
- Detainee supplies all in place
- Station supplies
- Flags down
- All debris cleared
Most important is the early communication with the teams. Command structure is put in place for the BPS. The senior officer is identified as the lead for that hurricane who sends out orders, instructions and updates. We plan to see which watch is working and sort logistics around what the shift will look like as some personnel may have to come in early or prepare to stay later. We take into account the fact that the Causeway might be closed so there is a shifting of personnel and those that live in the east may report to Southside station as opposed to their normal stations and offices around the island. During a worst-case scenario, we can have as many as 40 officers on duty to keep things flowing at night with more in the day.
RG: Based on what you may have seen in the past, what recommendations would you make for people to stay safe (preventative care) or care for themselves should they experience an emergency during a hurricane?
AR: First and foremost, don’t do things that may lead to an emergency taking place. We’d prefer to not have to respond to something that could have been preventable. Stay home and shelter. Don’t go sight seeing. Let the roads get cleared before leaving home. Please remember that by venturing out during a hurricane, it puts your life at risk, but also puts first responder lives at risk. Have a first aid kit available and stock it for every eventuality. Plan for every possibility from an upset stomach to a major cut. Have an evacuation plan in mind. If you had to leave the house or apartment for a major emergency, then what does that look like? If you lose part of the roof, then where can you go that is safe and sheltered in the house? If you absolutely cannot stay where you are then what will your move be? Also, be sure that all your property is insured, including your home/ apartment, boat and vehicles.
RG: Is there a support system in place for you (and your family) to get through a hurricane? (Childcare, senior care, mental health care etc.)
AR: Me personally—if needed, yes. I can lean on family, friends and colleagues. We’re not high on the priority list as heroes during or after a hurricane—that’s the Royal Bermuda Regiment (RBR) and BELCO. Bermudians want the roads clear, the air-conditioner on, their electricity and internet and they’re good!
We support each other by trying to remember that the anxiety is greater than the reality, so things that are out of our control, just leave them be!
RG: What is one of the better experiences you had while on duty going through a hurricane?
AR: Tough one. All police officers on duty during a hurricane are constantly anxious about their own families. We must be away from our loved ones and property and if comms go down it’s a tough spot to be in. From a personal perspective, and I know it will be shared with every BPS officer, any hurricane where there is no loss of life is a good experience. Then we work our way down from that. Minimal damage, getting the power restored, having few road obstructions, etc. After a hurricane, there’s always a great sense of community. Everyone is out helping to clear debris and making the roads accessible.
There’s also a bit of friendly rivalry between the BPS, the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service and the RBR that’s present throughout the year, but all come together during a hurricane.
RG: How do members of your organization support one another during hurricane season?
AR: In the lead up to a hurricane there is a great deal of communication had with officers. Key to that communication is for officers to get their households prepared and check on their family and friends. Because we can never be 100 percent certain of the day and time the hurricane may hit or how long it will be with us, it’s important that all officers prepare themselves. They may not know if they will be working during the hurricane based on shift patterns. It may be predicted to hit during their days off but suddenly it speeds up and hits while they are on nights perhaps. Once it clears and communications is back up, there is always the shout out on emails and messaging to make sure colleagues are well and see if anyone needs help. We also have showers and support equipment available for officers if they lost their roof and need help after the fact.
RG: Is there anything else you would like to share with the public related to hurricane preparation, safety and care? Maybe some tips or tricks of the trade?
AR: I cannot stress preparation for hurricane. Water. Non-perishable items. Charge all your devices. Download movies. Have board games and cards available. Battery-powered lamps and flashlights are key. Extra batteries, too. Better to have and not need than to need and not have. And remember, to have one is none, to have two is one. Bucket and rope for those that can get tank access. One of my personal favourites is a camping sun shower. I have this filled up before a hurricane in the event I need to shower and the power is out. Of the utmost importance, though, is to have a plan. Plan for everything you can think of. Visitors should have a sense of personal responsibility if they happen to be on island during a storm. Keep your eye on the weather—ask locals for advice. The internet has been a great resource as more people can track the hurricane and have more awareness of the situation. The RBR has been a big help in disaster relief. They are out there quickly and they’re good at what they do.
RG: What do you want Bermuda to know?
AR: Don’t ignore the lead up to the season. Get your supplies in early. Have your plans ready. When we see storms brewing, it is important to stay tuned in and monitor what is happening. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Keep monitoring and mentally prepared for how the track may go. It’s also crucial to communicate with our seniors. Not everyone has access to social media and internet. Let them know what is on the horizon and do what you can to help both before and after a hurricane, and, if possible, during the storm. That may be as simple as looking out the window at your elderly neighbours’ house to make sure there is no structural damage. Have your battery-operated radio on during and after the storm. Tune in to 100.1 FM which is the emergency broadcast station.