June 14, 20121163Views

Thursday, June 14, 2012  The National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) convened its annual meeting today, co-chaired by His Excellency the Governor Boyd McCleary, CMG, CVO and Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. The Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith, OBE at the Conference Room of Maria’s By the Sea.

The meeting was held to review the 2011 action points and to receive reports from the various committees. A presentation on the March 28 National Earthquake/Tsunami Simulation Exercise was also given. Of particular interest to the Council was the Report on the State of Preparedness of the Territory for the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season. This report included pertinent information on the Territory’s readiness, mitigation and planning, emergency response capabilities and the recovery coordination. It was compiled by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM).

During his remarks Governor McCleary said, “I am pleased to learn of the work being done by the Climate Change Focal Point in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour. Cabinet recently approved a Climate Change Policy for the Virgin Islands that outlines the key responsibilities of each sector in adapting and mitigating the effects of Climate Change.  I am also pleased to learn of the impressive collaboration between the Town and Country Planning Department and the DDM.  These initiatives will soon be made known to the public but have been outlined in the State of Preparedness Report being presented by the DDM Director.”

The Deputy Chairman Premier Smith, who spearheads the Mitigation and Recovery Processes, addressed the Council. He commended the DDM for its work and stressed the importance of disaster preparedness in the Territory. He said, “Even though Dr. Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (NOAA) Administrator is predicting a less active season she has cautioned states to maintain a high state of readiness.”  The Premier indicated that this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the passage of Hurricane Andrew and that during 1992 only 6 named storms developed.  He further said, “The building sector in the Virgin Islands is conscious of the need to design and build with hurricanes in mind but roofs are fragile and can leave occupants exposed.  It is important for us all to be fully prepared this season”

The highlight of the meeting was the presentation of reports from the various committees responsible for health disaster management; emergency planning; welfare and relief distribution; public information and awareness; mitigation; transport and infrastructure and emergency fund distribution. 

The NDMC is established by the Disaster Management Act, 2003. Its role is to review the national strategy for, and the state of, disaster management in the Territory and make recommendations to government. The Governor is the chairman and the Premier is the deputy chairman of the NDMC.  The Premier has ultimate responsibility for the area of hazard mitigation and disaster recovery (comprised of rehabilitation and reconstruction) while the Governor’s functions cover the areas of preparedness, and response.

The Meeting concluded with the Council defining a number of key actions for follow-up; some of which included the need to increase the awareness and level of preparedness within the private sector and for constant renewal of the message of preparedness.  A complete report from the meeting, including a statement on the level of preparedness of the Territory, will be presented to Cabinet in the coming weeks.