People of the Virgin Islands. Many of us would like to put the 2017 hurricane season behind us forever but unfortunately we are still recovering from the devastating effects of the flood events as well as the impacts from two major hurricanes, Irma and Maria. As a Government, we are doing all that we can, under difficult circumstances, to provide a level of readiness for all in the Territory.
We cannot do this alone and we ask for your support in ensuring that everyone gets ready and remains ready throughout the 2018 Hurricane Season.
The official start of the season is today, June 1. However, we are already seeing the development of tropical waves and storms in or around our waters. We therefore must make preparations now before the season becomes more active and before we are threatened by another major hurricane.
Now we have experience of what happens when our small islands are faced with the most devastating hurricanes on record. We know how difficult it is to get supplies during the last few hours before a storm and how challenging it is, particularly if we leave preparations too late. We are also experiencing the difficulties that come with the rebuilding process.
The opportunity is here this year for all of us to learn from the past and to get ready early, but we cannot do this if we do not come together as a Territory and support each other.
We are appealing to every member of our community to “Be Ready and Stay Ready”. Gather your staff, your family, your friends and talk through what needs to be done and how you will respond to any significant weather event. We cannot be complacent.
Take the time to examine your homes. Clear up any debris in your property and in your community.
Find a safe place in your home that you know will protect you and make sure to get it ready. Hurricane shutters are essential and there are many options available to you today. Spend some time examining those that remain in place following Irma and Maria. Check your insurance policies.
Stock up on supplies. Every time you visit the supermarket or the hardware store, collect a few items and build your emergency kit. Ensure that you consult your physician and stock up on adequate medical supplies and medicines early.
Contingency plans work! Businesses in particular must plan how you can protect your businesses and your staff. There are many options for business continuity. Backing up your information and data is essential and there are cost effective options to assist you in doing so.
Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict a 70% chance of 10 to 16 named storms, of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes, with 1 to 4 becoming major hurricanes category 3 or above.
No matter what happens this year, we need to enter the season as prepared as we can be.
I am hopeful that many of the most critical recovery works will also be completed before the peak of the season. We as a Government will continue to focus on key priority areas – getting emergency shelters ready; protecting our critical national assets; clearing our waterways; improving our drainage; helping those who are vulnerable; working with our non-government agencies to establish a closer working relationship; ensuring that we reach out to our partners to get their support in the event that we are impacted again and keeping an eye on critical stocks to ensure that we have sufficient available. We will shortly issue details of the emergency shelters across the Territory.
Our key emergency response and security agencies are preparing to ensure the public remains safe and secure in the event of another natural disaster, despite the challenges they each face in rebuilding their infrastructure.
The United Kingdom Government will also continue to work closely with the Government of the Virgin Islands to support hurricane preparations and is putting plans in place to make sure that it is ready to help again if needed.
We are depending on you to help us as well. There is still a lot of debris to be cleaned up; many homes are still being repaired and the psychological scars are evident among our people.
Following the impacts last year, I witnessed an outpouring of community support. We all came together and we responded as a Territory. The community spirit was evident and I believe it was this spirit that helped us to move into the full swing of recovery very early. Going forward, we must continue to encourage and support one another.
Help your neighbors; share positive ideas and thoughts on social media to help others get ready; play your part in protecting and making sure our environment is clean. Each and every one of us has a role to play in ensuring that we have the ability to survive another active hurricane season.
As we start this hurricane season, let’s Be Ready and Stay Ready.
May God bless you all and God bless these beautiful Virgin Islands.