Partnership needed 
for disaster recovery

Tropical Shipping hosted a disaster management workshop series in the Cayman Islands on 16 February designed to encourage public-private partnerships. The workshops focused on business continuity and disaster recovery, as well as the government and business actions necessary for a successful recovery.

Tim Martin, assistant vice president, Tropical Shipping, said the purpose of the event is to bring the public and private sector together and plan for the future. To raise awareness, Tropical Shipping hosts the event annually in between four and eight countries in the Caribbean and Florida.

Explaining the company’s involvement with the event, Rick Murrell, executive chairman of Tropical Shipping said the company realised after experiencing Hurricane Hugo in 1989 in the US Virgin Islands that there is a critical need for the public sector and private sector to pre-plan together.

At the time, the government and the private sector had not communicated before the disaster and plans did not exist, he said. “I don’t think that at the time people anywhere understood how to get out of a super catastrophe.

“We then began a process to engage the public and private sectors to communicate with one another because what we are finding is that in many communities, unless we host an event to bring people together and get people talking between both sectors, it does not really happen that much,” he said.

The event held at the Marriott Beach Resort discussed in particular the roles of businesses in disaster preparedness and recovery and how private sector preparedness can be integrated into the Cayman Islands disaster recovery framework.

It’s about ‘how’

“It is not about ‘what and who.’ It is much more about ‘how,’” said Mr. Martin. “There is already a notion of what would need to be done in the event of a catastrophe and of the institutions that would have to be involved, but how to react and move forward and to put in place the necessary plans, is one of the objectives of the event.

While 10 or 20 years ago public-private partnerships in this area were nearly unheard of, they have today become instrumental, Mr. Murrell noted.

“Ultimately the speed of recovery is directly proportional to the effective interface between the public and the private sector,” he concluded.

The conference included presentations by Hazard Management Cayman Islands and the Chamber of Commerce, which also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Caribbean-Central American Action at the event.

Overview of hazards

Emeritus Professor Roy Watlington from the University of the Virgin Islands gave a scientific overview of the hazards that threaten the Northern Caribbean and specifically the Cayman Islands.

Hurricanes remain the number one threat to the Cayman Islands, he concluded, followed by earthquakes, tsunamis and sea level rise from global climate change. While other islands are more protected by their topographical profile the Cayman Islands are vulnerable to rising sea levels, whether as a result of storm surges, tsunamis or climate change.

He demonstrated how being prepared for a disaster can make a massive difference, by comparing the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti. Although the Haitian earthquake was 45 times less energetic, it occurred at a much shallower depth.

While Chile is certainly much more affluent than Haiti and this played some part, the greater experience in dealing with earthquakes was one of the main factors that minimised the damage and human suffering. “As a result, they built accordingly and citizens’ education was elevated. This was not the case in Haiti which also could not afford to build with a distant threat in mind.”

And because there was no recent earthquake there was no memory of what needed to be done and how to respond, he added.