Since Thursday the Cayman Islands National Hurricane Committee’s combined resources has moved over 7,000 persons (both residents and visitors) off the island, a mammoth exercise in the two days in which this had to be achieved. Sixty visitors remain on the island, and the Department of Tourism has made arrangements for them to be accommodated at local hotels.
While this major transportation feat has been taking place, shelters catering to 4,000 persons opened all across Grand Cayman, taking care of many of the most vulnerable among the population. At 8:30 pm there were some 1,655 persons in shelters.
In another sphere, the police have also been reorganized into a major emergency organ, declaring a curfew and implementing a range of strategies to ensure the safety and security of the Cayman Islands.
Much of these activities were being coordinated under the framework of the National Hurricane Committee, whose members were busy since Hurricane Dean appeared on the scene five days ago. Early today, the centre of operations shifted to the Emergency Operations Centre was activated mid-day Saturday.
The NHC’s and EOC’s stellar performance reflects a reengineering of the NHC in the three years since Hurricane Ivan, hurricane drills and workshops, and an intensive public education campaign to build the awareness of residents.
Commenting on the role of the EOC, Deputy NHC Director Angela Martins said: ‘The purpose of the EOC is to provide oversight of the island’s hurricane preparedness, pre and post through to the all-clear phase,’ Mrs. Martins said. ‘Today, we monitored the activities of the shelters, liaised with the police and dealt with all aspects of emergency management and response; and briefed his Excellency the Governor. ‘
Manning the EOC command centre sited at the Headquarters of the Fire Service were representatives of the Health Services Authority, the Public Works Department, the Fire Service, the Red Cross, the Government Services, the Department of Tourism, and the public relations section of Finance. GIS has been operating on two eight-hour shifts since last Thursday. The Fire Service has a fully operational call centre to issue advisories, and address concerns of residents.
Mrs. Martins had high praise for the NHC’s joint communications services, which comprises GIS, the department of Finance PR manager, and the Department of Tourism (DOT). All have worked together to achieve improvements in delivery of information to the public.
‘We have really grown in leaps and bounds in this area, including working at becoming far more proactive in managing the overseas media,’ she said.