Shutter programme slow to start

A government plan to offer homeowners incentives to install storm shutters over their windows and doors has not been put into effect more than a year after officials first discussed the idea.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said last week that initial talks with insurance companies regarding premium reductions for homeowners who installed shutters ‘were not the most encouraging.’

‘It is something which we intend to continue to engage in to try to see results,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Mr. Tibbetts stressed that the voluntary shutter installation proposal was separate from the National Recovery Fund effort to rebuild homes devastated in the wake of 2004’s Hurricane Ivan. The NRF programme is being funded through monies received from the European Union.

‘The government…through the NRF is dealing with shuttering the homes that are being repaired and built now,’ he said. ‘The NRF have gone back over many of the homes that they have built and have put shuttering in place.’

‘The actual shuttering programme with the wider community and private individuals has not started yet.’

The idea initially was that insurance rate-payers would more readily agree to install expensive storm shutters if they could save money on annual premiums. Installing shutters or hurricane-resistant windows would better protect homes and reduce overall costs to the country if a hurricane or tropical storm were to strike Cayman.

There is no law in the Cayman Islands that requires the installation of hurricane resistant windows or storm shutters for existing structures.

Generally, before the arrival of a hurricane, government officials hand out plywood to needy Caymanians while other residents buy it at local hardware stores. Mr. Tibbetts has previously said he would like to reduce the dependence on plywood and have homeowners take longer-term measures to protect their properties.

The Caymanian Compass reported earlier this year that property insurance rates had started to decline with no major storms striking Cayman since Ivan. Some companies projected up to a 10 per cent decrease in rates.

‘We were told at the very beginning that rates have actually slowly but surely been going down,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘I’ve been checking on my own and there’s a slight reduction, but it is slight.’

Mr. Tibbetts said that government doesn’t have the money to provide or install storm shutters for every Caymanian household.

‘When we look at the numbers, it is not something the government is in a position to take on the financial costs of for the entire community,’ he said. ‘(Regarding the NRF programme), those are people who you can easily justify doing it, because they are in need already.’

‘It’s where you get to the point as to who the government would assist and who would be left to do it on their own that is always a problem.’

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