Hurricane season begins today and Government and the National Hurricane Committee have been busy preparing over the past year.
‘Everyone knows that experience is one of the best teachers. We have learned the areas that needed to be strengthened in our plans to better protect the people of these Islands and their property and respond more effectively in the unfortunate event of being impacted by a severe weather system,’ NHC Chairman and Deputy Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks said in a press release.
Mr. Ebanks said that since the end of the 2005 hurricane season the National Hurricane Plan has been revised, some of the public shelters have been upgraded, the storm-surge inundation and loss-projection modelling initiative is underway, and the Government is actively following through on its commitment to establish a national emergency management agency, the release said.
The new National Hurricane Plan is currently going through its final reviews and approvals and will be made available in the next few weeks. It will, for example, include a new section on the roles of key individuals and entities, such as the Governor, Cabinet and the NHC. This will ensure timely transitions between respective authorities.
The revision also ensures that responsibilities of some sub-committees reflect actual functioning. For example the NHC had a Shelters & Damage Assessment subcommittee which has been separated into two subcommittees: Shelter Management and Impact Assessment.
In addition all subcommittee plans have been rewritten following a common format, and a group of new and younger civil servants have accepted subcommittee chairmanships.
Six new NHC subcommittees have been formed:
• Economic Continuity sub-Committee: a private sector liaison sub-committee, will formalize arrangements with key economic partners, such as retail banks, and hardware and grocery stores.
• Continuity of Government sub-Committee: incorporates and replaces the Records Management subcommittee, and takes on the wider purview of facilitating the timely re-establishment of normal public administration.
• Debris Management sub-Committee: provides for the management and regulation of debris removal drawing on resources of the private sector.
• District Emergency Response sub-Committee: provides for the formation of district committees to serve as agents of the elected Representatives and the NHC to assist in hurricane preparedness and response.
• Assessment sub-Committee: shifts the country’s focus from assessing physical damage to looking at overall impact, factoring in economic, social, and environmental as well as physical damage.
• International Aid Management sub-Committee: will focus on receiving and distributing assistance from overseas.
For public shelters, both fuel storage capacity and availability of air conditioning have been improved. Shelters now have enough fuel to run generators for four days, and five districts will have at least one air-conditioned shelter (East End and George Town will each have two). Government has also identified buildings that can be used as post-storm shelters, to help ensure that schools can reopen as soon as possible.
‘I am extremely grateful to all of our stalwart members of the NHC who have worked extremely hard in producing this new plan. And I am thrilled that we have had some new and upcoming individuals step forward and offer their services,’ Mr. Ebanks said.
While Mr. Ebanks feels that the NHC will be better prepared and equipped for the upcoming season than it ever has been, he is quick to point out the importance of personal and corporate preparedness.
‘The key to how prepared we are as a country will never depend solely on the NHC and the Government. If each individual and each business-owner does not do what is within his or her mains to ensure that their home and business is prepared, we will all be worst off. If there is one lesson that we all should have learned from our experience in 2004 – being prepared is a whole lot less expensive than being unprepared.’
‘If there is one lesson that we all should have learned from our experience in 2004 – being prepared is a whole lot less expensive than being unprepared.’
– NHC chair Donovan Ebanks