Hurricane exercise begins

An exercise to test the revised National Hurricane Plan began last night and will run through Thursday, National Hurricane Committee Chairman Donovan Ebanks said Monday.

‘It’s aimed at having all the sub-committees walk through the Plan to make sure everyone understands what it is they’re supposed to be doing,’ Mr. Ebanks said. ‘We expect [the exercise] will reveal some changes that need to be made. Some glitches are to be expected.’

Once the changes are made, the revised National Hurricane Plan is scheduled to be unveiled to the public on 4 July, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said.

At the Cabinet press briefing on Friday, Mr. Tibbetts talked about the National Hurricane Plan.

‘After a lot of work reviewing, reformatting and in some cases redistributing responsibilities, the plan in complete,’ he said. ‘Key areas not provided for in the old plan have been addressed.’

One area addressed dealt with assigning response teams from all of the districts in the Cayman Islands.

Another dealt with initial road clearance and debris removal, which will be coordinated with local heavy equipment operators.

Mr. Ebanks said some National Hurricane Committee sub-committees had been reconfigured since last year, and others – like the one dealing with debris removal – were new.

Mr. Tibbetts said the changes have improved the National Hurricane Plan.

‘We understand that in our islands hurricane preparedness will always be a work in progress,’ he said. ‘It will never be absolutely perfect. As experience varies, so too will the needs.

‘But I believe [the Cayman Islands] is more ready than they ever have been to respond to the impact of a major [storm] system.’

Mr. Tibbetts said every district except for Bodden Town will have at least one hurricane shelter available this year.

The government is in the process of repairing the Bodden Town Civic Centre – which was severely damaged during Hurricane Ivan – but even when the work is completed, it will not be a Class A shelter

‘It can’t be used as a Class A shelter simply because of its location,’ Mr. Tibbetts said, noting that as a Class B shelter, it could be used as a post-disaster shelter or possibly as a pre-storm shelter in the case of lower strength hurricane.

In the future, all government schools and the government office accommodation buildings will be built to withstand Category 5 hurricanes, Mr. Tibbetts said.

‘And important from a tourism standpoint, the new airport facilities will also be built to that standard,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘Should there ever be the need to house tourists at any point in time, that will be available.’

Mr. Tibbetts said that although the Cayman Islands could not expect the cavalry to the rescue of the country, he believed there would be better assistance from the overseas entities like the United Kingdom and the other Overseas Territories should Cayman face another disaster.

Mr. Tibbetts could not say what level of assistance the UK would provide in the event of disaster in Cayman, but he believes it will provide a more tangible response than it did after Hurricane Ivan, depending on what Cayman’s needs were.

‘His Excellency the Governor has shown a tremendous interest in our disaster preparedness and has been working steadfastly with us with regard to making sure the UK has a clear understanding of our needs,’ Mr. Tibbetts said, adding that a lot of the problem in the UK’s response after Hurricane Ivan had to do with poor communication lines.

With the process of revising the National Hurricane Plan nearing completion, the government will turn its attention to the National Recovery Plan.

‘We will have the Recovery Plan in place very shortly,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘We had to have the National Hurricane Plan out the way first.’

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