Storm impact studies planned

A new sub-committee created under the 2006 National Hurricane Plan will prepare economic impact assessments, ideally within 45 days after the all-clear is given following the passing of a storm.

National Hurricane Committee Chairman Donovan Ebanks stressed the need to quickly establish economic losses caused by a disaster.

‘As time passes, people tend to forget what happened [as a result of a storm],’ he said. ‘The opportunities for external assistance are progressively weakened.

‘The sooner comprehensive and reputable information can be given to the outside world, the greater the opportunities for assistance,’ he said.

Mr. Ebanks said that those who might give aid ‘won’t just respond to stories in the newspaper’ and that they need to see some sort of official report.

After Hurricane Ivan, there was no procedure in place for conducting an economic impact study, said Economic Impact Assessment Sub-committee Chairman Stran Bodden.

A team from the United Nations-related Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean eventually came to Cayman more than two months after Hurricane Ivan to conduct an economic impact study on the storm. That report was not released until December 2004, three months after the hurricane.

Mr. Bodden, who was then heading up Cayman’s Economics and Statistics Office, said he worked closely with the ECLAC team while it was conducting the study here. He also said he received training in the methodology of conducting such economic impact assessments.

The work of the sub-committee will actually be before an approaching hurricane. Based on factors such as the strength, direction and forward speed of a storm, the sub-committee would try to identify the areas of greatest threat. This task will be made much easier with the development of a new computerised storm surge model for the Cayman Islands – called KAOS – which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

After the storm, the Economic Impact sub-committee will conduct an immediate damage assessment within 24 hours after the all-clear is issued following the storm.

‘This is just a quick snapshot of the damage, but it will be critical to the government for running things in the future,’ Mr. Bodden said.

This assessment would primarily look at publicly owned and leased properties, paying close attention to vital assets like the hospital, the airport and the roads, Mr. Bodden said.

A variety of organisations, including the Public Works Department, the Lands and Survey Department and the Mosquito Research and Control Unit would assist in the initial damage report, with the latter conducting an aerial damage assessment,

The initial survey would be followed by a preliminary damage assessment, which is hoped to be completed within four days after all-clear is given.

At this point, it is anticipated the District Emergency Response sub-committees will have had a chance to begin assessing damages in their districts, giving the Economic Impact Assessment sub-committee an idea of which areas were impacted the most.

A recovery assessment would then be prepared within 14 days of the all-clear.

‘This is where we would begin the valuation work,’ Mr. Bodden said.

Groups assisting in the process would include the Public Works Department, Building Control, the MRCU, the Economics and Statistics Office and Lands and Survey.

A private sector organisation, Cayman Society of Architects, Surveyors & Engineers, would also provide technical assistance and advice as necessary.

The long term assessment, which would include an economic impact report, is anticipated to be completed within 45 days after the all-clear is issued.

Mr. Bodden said that although his sub-committee will do the work on the economic impact assessment, it would do it in consultation with ECLAC.

‘I do envision inviting ECLAC back [to the Cayman Islands],’ Mr. Bodden said, explaining that ECLAC’s stamp of approval on the report would lend it credibility.

NHC Chairman Mr. Ebanks clarified ECLAC’s role.

‘They would be doing more of a certification audit on whatever we have done,’ he said.

Mr. Bodden said he had confidence in his sub-committee, working cooperatively with the ESO, to produce an accurate economic impact assessment.

‘[The elements of the report] are things we have done before,’ he said.

One potential problem point of the timeline occurs with all of the timing being linked to the all-clear.

After Hurricane Ivan, the all-clear was not given for more than two weeks. Mr. Ebanks explained that with Ivan, the all-clear was delayed because of issues dealing with wanting to remain under a state of emergency for security reasons.

‘The all-clear should really be linked to weather conditions,’ he said.