HMCI takes over hurricane preparedness

Members of 17 sub-committees were to report their hurricane preparedness plans at a group meeting Tuesday.

The meeting was to be similar to those held before the start of hurricane season every year, with one significant difference.

The sub-committees will not report to the National Hurricane Committee any more. The agency now in charge is Hazard Management Cayman Islands – HMCI.

Transition took place in January.

The need for a permanent and full-time disaster management unit was publicised following the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 and the lengthy period of recovery.

Until then, the National Hurricane Committee had existed on $30,000 a year and finding spare time, said its chairman, Deputy Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks (Caymanian Compass, 23 May, 2005).

Chief Fire Officer Kirkland Nixon, now retired, pointed out that the NHC had begun considering disasters beyond hurricanes, both natural and man-made.

Although hurricane season is June-November, preparedness education needs to take place year-round, the men agreed.

Ms Barbara Carby was selected in July 2006 to head what was then referred to as the National Emergency Management Agency for the Cayman Islands. Ms Carby was the first woman to earn a PhD in Geochemistry at the University of the West Indies and the first woman to serve as director general of Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness.

Mr. McCleary Frederick was appointed deputy director of the new agency.

In January 2007, the name was changed to Hazard Management Cayman Islands. HMCI has overall responsibility for the national hazard management programme, including preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery, Ms. Carby explained.

HMCI is not intended to replace any agency or sub-committee, but rather to coordinate all functions, she said.

The sub-committees activated in time of need are organised in four clusters as before: support services, emergency response, human concerns and infrastructure.

HMCI is in the Chief Secretary’s portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.

The agency will have a staff of nine by month’s end. This includes Ms Carby, director; Mr. Frederick, deputy director Mitigation; Mr. Donald Druitt Sr., deputy director Operations; Mr. Omar Afflick, deputy director preparedness.

Mr. Frederick is well equipped to deal with mitigation, having served as chief building control officer with the Planning Department for 21 years. He refers to mitigation as long-term preparation – making sure structures are built to a particular standard. Mr. Frederick served on the National Hurricane Committee from 1992.

Mr. Druitt is one of only about 600 people in the world who are certified emergency managers. Before that training, he served in the US military. In the 12 years before coming to Cayman, he helped build four emergency operations centres.

Mr. Afflick comes from Jamaica, where he served as acting senior director of preparedness and emergency operations. At the time of Hurricane Ivan, he was regional coordinator for eastern Jamaica, where his efforts were mainly in relief work

Other HMCI staff members include Mr. Lee Madison, the information technology officer. A preparedness and information officer is to come on board. The agency also has a financial officer, administrative secretary and clerk/ receptionist. It currently operates out of the Cayman Corporate Centre on Hospital Road.