Media response to be managed

The Government will seek to have an aggressive response to local and international media in the event of another disaster such as Hurricane Ivan.

Mrs. Angela Martins, Deputy Chairperson of the National Hurricane Committee and chair of new sub-committee the Joint Communications Services, explained what message will be delivered. She was speaking at the launch of the 2006 National Hurricane Plan at the Marriott Resort Monday.

It will be, she said, ‘A very comprehensive management of the voice of the destination, a very comprehensive management of the message of the destination, ensuring that we provide a message that is fair, that is factual and that all parties within the public sector use the approved message points as the information provided to any sources overseas.’

In response to a question from the floor on whether Cayman will be open to any media coming in after such another event, Mrs. Martins said, ‘We don’t seek to censor anyone and we will support them to get their story’.

Governor Stuart Jack added that he is inclined toward maximum accuracy rather than censorship. ‘We want to get it right based on fact,’ he said.

Mrs. Martins explained that this sub-committee came about because after Ivan the systems and structures were lacking to really do the best job of managing public relations.

The communications team is made up of representatives from the Department of Tourism, Ministry of Finance and other Government PR personnel.

Once the message points are approved by the Governor, they can be relayed as the voice of the jurisdiction, she said.

She also said that the Joint Communications Services will ensure the local media is fully briefed on a range of issues of interest locally, such as relief services in the different districts.

Fred Sambula from the Meteorological Office said the human and technological capacity of the met service is continually being developed, including the upgrading of satellite receiving systems.

The Met Office has also got some storm surge atlases, which will enable them to tell the public maximum levels of water that can be expected along the coastlines of the Cayman Islands in the event of a storm.

The preparedness and response structure of the National Hurricane Plan has four categories, outlined Mrs. Martins.

She explained how the new 2006 plan has gone through a series of interventions along with going back and forth to Cabinet for approval and then being amended.

She spoke in place of Chairman Donovan Ebanks, who was off-island.

The first category of the preparedness and response structure is Support Services, of which there are five sub-committees: Joint Communications Services; Continuity of Operations (getting Government operations back up as quickly as possible, such as schools); Resources Support (ensuring resources needed, such as vehicles, can be made available for essential support services); Management of International Aid; Economic Continuity (helping ensure businesses get back on their feet, with special focus on tourism and financial services).

Emergency Response Services’ sub committees include: Evacuation Committee; District Emergency Response Committee; Search and Rescue; Security and Law Enforcement.

The third group of sub-committees is called Human Concerns and comprises: Shelter Operations; Essential Relief Services (will work closely with District Emergency Response Committees); Medical Relief Services; Mass Fatalities Management; Red Cross.

The fourth group of sub-committees is the Infrastructure Committee made up of: Utilities and Communications; Initial Clearance and Debris Management; Emergency Communications; Impact Assessment (determines scope of damage and recovery assessment).

Mrs. Martins was also speaking on behalf of Orrett Connor and Carson Ebanks, the other two Deputy Chairs. She also acknowledged advisor Kirkland Nixon who she described as the Father of Hurricane Preparedness in the Cayman Islands.