Unity urged for disasters

A workshop held Wednesday at the Courtyard Marriott on West Bay Road brought together representatives from the public and private sectors to co-ordinate disaster recovery planning.

Organised by Tropical Shipping, the owner of the Thompson Line, the workshop included participants from the Cayman Islands Government and the key private sector businesses.

Workshop co-ordinator Jennifer Nugent-Hill, Tropical’s assistant vice-president of public and governmental affairs, said the event was a way for the shipping company to show its commitment to the Caribbean region.

‘For us, this was really important to be here in the Caymans,’ she said. ‘It gives us a change to share ideas and best practices for disaster management, even beyond hurricanes.’

One key to effective disaster management is co-operation between the various key entities in the public and private sectors.

‘It’s important to bring the business community into the pre-planning of disaster recovery,’ she said. ‘You have to build a partnership. You can’t do disaster management by yourself.’

Ms. Nugent-Hill said she was encouraged with the response of the participants, particularly the Government, which was represented by National Hurricane Committee chairman Donovan Ebanks and NHC member Kirkland Nixon.

‘Disaster management plans are good for the entire region,’ she said.

‘I spend time with Caribbean governments and whenever I see efforts to implement a disaster recovery plan, I’m very pleased,’ she said.

Tropical CEO and president Rick Murrell had a positive assessment of the way Cayman dealt with Hurricane Ivan.

‘The poster child for how disaster management should be done is Cayman,’ he said. ‘The way the public and private sector came together was phenomenal.’

Robert ‘Mark’ Chapman, vice president, pricing and organisation support, echoed Mr. Murrell’s assessment.

‘Cayman did a fantastic job in the recovery, probably as good a job as I’ve seen in the Caribbean,’ he said.

However, as well as Cayman did after Ivan, there is always room for improvement.

‘Today’s meeting was about moving from being good in disaster recovery to being great,’ Mr. Chapman said.

One aspect that could be improved was communication between all of the key parties in disaster recovery, which is something the workshop offered its participants.

‘This is really the first time we had a face-to-face meeting with the Hurricane Committee,’ he said.

Mr. Chapman said the interaction between the government and private sector in Cayman is ‘one of the best that I’ve ever seen’.

The workshop partially dealt with how the various elements of disaster recovery could help each other.

‘It’s about all three of the components of disaster management (the public sector, the private sector and the shipping companies) working together to find out where there were gaps and how to close those gaps,’ Mr. Chapman said.

Tropical has been conducting these disaster recovery workshops since 1990. It had tried to conduct one in Cayman a few years ago, but they were unable to co-ordinate it.

‘Ideally we’d like to have them before a disaster, but you get a different level of understanding afterwards,’ he said. ‘This was an opportune time to capture the (Hurricane Ivan) experience.’

Mr. Murrell said Tropical normally conducts three to five workshops a year in various locations, but they are stepping up that number because of the prediction for more than average numbers of Atlantic basin hurricanes in the near future.

One private sector participant, Woody Foster of Foster’s Food Fair, said most of the participants, having gone through Ivan, had already learned or discussed most of the elements of the workshop.

‘But there were a couple of points made that we haven’t considered, and if you get one good point, it makes it worthwhile.’

Mr. Foster also said the workshop refreshed the lessons learned from Ivan and allowed participants to build better working relationships.

If Tropical were to hold the workshop again next year, Mr. Foster said he would gladly attend.

Chairman of the National Hurricane Committee Donovan Ebanks said he also found the workshop worthwhile, especially from the standpoint of sharing information.

‘The exchange of information between key entities and the establishment of communication was extremely helpful,’ he said.