Practising for a hurricane

Mock “Hurricane Dan” named after outgoing auditor general

TOPhurricanedanLEAD

Cayman got
a head start on the hurricane season this week, carrying out an exercise on
Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for a mock storm.

The National Hazard Management
Council met on Tuesday afternoon as part of an exercise to get ready for
“Hurricane Dan”, named after Auditor General Dan Duguay whose contract finishes
on Friday.

Senior officials and representatives
of Hazard Management Cayman Islands and other essential services attended an initial
meeting Tuesday in the first phase of the two-day simulation to prepare and
react to “Dan”.

Under the 2010 scenario, ‘Hurricane
Dan’ made impact with Grand Cayman. The storm scenario continued through the
night and into Wednesday which began with the shuttering of government
buildings and the testing of generators.

By noon Wednesday, the “storm” had
hit the island, causing damage to the eastern and southern parts of the island,
wrecking the port and destroying some of the island’s infrastructure, said Omar
Afflick, director of the National Emergency Operations Centre.

Calling the storm after the auditor
general was a joint decision, Mr. Afflick said, and was done to honour the work
Mr. Duguay had done for hazard management in Cayman.

“Dan Duguay has played a very vital
role in the development of the present systems we have. He played an integral
role in the development of our relief plans and played a role in the
development of the clusters and sub-committees responsible for that area. He
has done quite a bit of work in trying to streamline the plans that already
exist and contributed to new plans and procedures the Cayman Islands will use
in the future,” Mr. Afflick said.

Mr. Duguay said he had been asked
if he minded the fake hurricane being named after him, but he said he regarded
it as a humorous farewell gesture. “I said I didn’t mind at all, that I thought
it pretty funny,” he said.

Practice run

If a hurricane hits Cayman this
year, it will be the first time Governor Duncan Taylor will experience one
here. However, he is off island so did not participate in this week’s exercise.
A representative from his office, Steve Moore, took his place.

Mr. Afflick said the governor would
be trained in the procedures and in WebEOC – a web–based emergency communications
system.

There are a number of other new
players who have not gone through the emergency procedures before and the
exercise is aimed at preparing them as well as to refresh the knowledge of
people already experienced in the exercise.

During the exercise, and in a real
storm, the executive group, which includes the governor, members of Cabinet and
Leader of the Opposition, will be based at Citrus Grove in George Town, while
members of the policy group will be stationed at the airport fire station.

On Wednesday morning, the National Emergency Operation Centre was
activated, featuring a tabletop exercise designed to test readiness plans. It
also served to refresh existing personnel and train new players in their roles
and familiarised them with the structure, functions and procedures of the National
Emergency Operations Centre.

“The
only field activities is the shuttering exercise in all government buildings
and checking water supplies,” said McCleary Frederick, director
of Hazard Management Cayman Islands.

Hurricane season officially begins
on 1 June, and lasts for six months.

The exercise is done annually to test
the Hurricane Plan and to allow players to rehearse their roles. If the
exercise highlights some shortfalls of the existing systems, those will lead to
amendments in the plan, Mr. Afflick explained.

Last year, due to the relatively
quiet 2009 season, the National Emergency Operations Centre was not activated
so the national response mechanism was not exercised.

The “Hurricane Dan” scenario provided “realistic
and credible description of what is possible prior to and following the impact
of a hurricane that may affect the Cayman Islands”, according to a government
press release.

It was a national exercise, incorporating the
government, any functional district emergency response committees,
non-governmental organisations, all emergency response entities and the 17 sub-committees
forming the clusters of the NEOC.

Participants were asked to react to all
scenarios as though they were real situations.

The scenario presented was not necessarily
based on one particular storm, but on historical data and sought to
realistically reflect the behaviour of a hurricane. Participants were told it
could be based on a composite of more than one storm.

The exercise finished with a debrief at
3.30pm at the NEOC.

TOPhurricanedanSTORY

The National Emergency Operation Centre is activated during the mock hurricane exercise.
Photo: Norma Connolly
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