Gov’t ready to continue after disaster

A Continuity of Operations sub-committee to ensure the continued operations of central government and all statutory authorities has been established as part of the Cayman Islands National Hurricane Plan.

The purpose of the plan is to minimise disruptions to the operations of government after a national emergency or disaster.

The Chief Officer of the Portfolio of Civil Service, Peter Gough, chairs the sub-committee on behalf of the Chief Secretary. Core members include the directors of Lands and Survey, the National Archives, Computer Services and the Public Works Department.

Mr. Gough said the Continuity of Operations idea is nothing new to the government.

‘There were many [business continuity] plans in place before,’ he said. ‘All that’s happened is they are being called something else, they are in a standard format, and they are much more comprehensive than they were before.’

Some of the changes to the old plans have been adopted because of lessons learned from Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

‘[The plan] is a little different this year than last year,’ Mr. Gough said, noting that in years past, the Personnel Department was responsible for the deployment of civil servants after a hurricane.

This year, however, each portfolio, ministry or authority will deploy its own personnel, Mr. Gough said.

‘It’s a better system because they know the personnel required to keep operations running,’ he said.

By 1 April every year, the chief officers of each ministry and portfolio are responsible for producing a plan that identifies personnel that are essential to the operation of its entity. The chief officers also identify available personnel who are not considered essential but who could help with other specific post-disaster tasks.

At the advent of an imminent threat to the Cayman Islands, all vacation leave is cancelled, Mr. Gough said.

Each of the individual ministry/portfolio continuity of operations plans then come into effect and collectively form the Cayman Islands Government Continuity of Operations Plan. The various chief officers are responsible for facilitating Government’s return to routine business practices as soon as possible after the disaster.

One of the tasks of the chief officers is to identify vital business records within their ministry or portfolio and ensure their back-up and/or safe storage. These efforts will be led by Director of Archives Roger Craig.

The National Hurricane Plan envisions vital government records being transferred and stored at the National Archives during the approach of a storm, but Mr. Craig said that would not be possible until its new building is constructed.

‘We have been full here for a number of years,’ he said.

Mr. Craig explained that the National Archive can only store about 5,000 records.

‘The new building will allow us to store about 30,000 records, which should meet Government’s needs for the next 25 years,’ he said.

The new building will be constructed on land off Shedden Road adjoining the National Archive. Mr. Craig said the new building is in its final planning stages and that funds are allocated for its construction.

Another role in the Hurricane Plan played by the National Archive is helping the various portfolios and ministries identify which of its records are indeed vital, in a process Mr. Craig calls departmental disaster control.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the improvements made in the 2006 National Hurricane Plan show the Government’s commitment to improving its capability to respond to hurricanes.

‘I want the Cayman Islands to claim the title as the most resilient country in the Caribbean,’ he said.