Government extends Lee Witt contract

Government announced this week that two independent consulting agencies will be lending expertise to the development of a comprehensive national disaster plan and supporting systems. The aim is that the Cayman Islands achieves an optimal level of resilience in the event of future disasters.

This has been the subject of recent major discussions and negotiations taking place among a number of key players locally and the two external agencies – James L. Witt and Associates (JLWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

JLWA, a US disaster consultancy firm which has supported local services in recovery efforts since October 2004, will be tasked with improving, prior to the 2005 Hurricane season, the National Hurricane Plan. This work will take JLWA from mid-March to mid-May, during which it will also introduce the concept of a National Emergency Management System (NEMS), exploring and defining the interrelationship of that system with the work of existing National Hurricane Committee (NHC) members and agencies.

Among its earlier activities, JLWA participated in NHC debriefing sessions, during which it gained first-hand knowledge of what the various sub-committees found as strengths and weaknesses. A number of these issues require attention before the start of this year’s hurricane season.

The UNDP, which assisted with the development of the recent report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), is being charged with the establishment of a comprehensive NEMS over the next 18-month period. ECLAC prepared a comprehensive report on the impact of Hurricane Ivan on the Cayman Islands.

The UNDP’s objective is now to strengthen existing agencies and systems as well as develop and establish new ones in order to mitigate impact and damage and to enhance effectiveness of response in the recovery stage.

This role will include development of enhanced tools and systems to supplement decision making in the areas of economic planning and assessments; physical planning and development; along with the administrative, legal and technical advice necessary for the establishment of a fully functional NEMS. UNDP, which operates out of Jamaica and utilises resources persons from the region, is deemed well positioned (from the vantage point of its regional involvement) to address immediate legislative and policy issues.

The UNDP project will be executed under the joint auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Development and Commerce, the Portfolio of Finance & Economics and the Portfolio of Internal & External Affairs.

Writing to NHC members on the role of both organisations, Deputy Chairman Donovan Ebanks, who is also Deputy Chief Secretary, said: ‘I believe that while Ivan has brought major adversity and cost to our society, it has also brought a major opportunity which we must capitalise on to realise its benefit,’ adding: ‘That opportunity is to elevate the way in which we appreciate and manage the risks posed by hurricanes, as well as other potential hazards, with, in turn, the potential benefit being a more resilient Cayman – one that is better prepared, one that stands to lose less, and one that is capable of sustaining its people and preserving their livelihoods and their dreams.’

Mr. Ebanks said that the overall strategy would draw on resources of both agencies. The strategy aims to pursue immediately enhancements in preparing local players to respond to potential hurricane disasters as well as to provide for the full ambit of emergency arrangements in the longer term

The projected cost of JLWA’s final phase of service will be approximately US$363,000, inclusive of expenses, with UNDP’s coming in at US$275,000 (US$200,000 of which will be met by the UN from funds earlier earmarked for the Cayman Islands).

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