Maritime emergency response tested

The emergency response capability of the Cayman Islands was tested recently as the Port Authority staged its Maritime Security Exercise 2007.

Taking place at the Westin Casuarina Resort, the day-long emergency simulation involved some 20 agencies which would be called upon if a maritime incident should happen, said a GIS press release.

The Port Authority’s Manager of Cruise Operations and Security Joseph Woods said the objective of the exercise was to assess how Cayman would handle a major maritime disaster. While the day’s activities were geared towards assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the Islands’ emergency response, it was, more importantly, a learning exercise, he said.

The exercise was staged in conjunction with Hazard Management Cayman Islands. Participants were headed by Governor Stuart Jack and staff from his office, Chief Secretary George McCarthy and Deputy Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks.

Participating government agencies were 911, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Fire Department, Health Services Authority, Department of Environment, Government Information Services, Maritime Authority, Tourism Department, K-9 Security Services and Immigration and Customs. Non-government agencies included Bodden Shipping. The Transportation Security Directorate of the UK Department of Transportation was on hand to observe the exercise, and will be providing feedback.

At the beginning of the table-top exercise, participants were introduced to the scenario, and agencies responded at each stage of the threat, which escalated as the day went on.

‘The exercise drove home the importance of training and practice in being prepared and in gaining a clearer understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities,’ Mr. Woods said in the press release. He noted a need for closer interaction among agencies and for enhanced understanding of roles. The exercise will enhance Port Authority’s training programmes, he said.

At the close of the exercise, Mr. Jack said the exercise was useful in that it called on agencies to think beyond what their own organisations were about, to looking at how to work effectively with other agencies.

He emphasised the importance of communication at all levels, noting that while the main objectives must be to save lives, another key concern in handling a disaster is to safeguard the island’s reputation locally and globally.

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