As we move closer into the peak of the hurricane season, I am urging residents to advance their preparations. I will also update regularly on what Government is doing to support you.
The Hurricane Season officially started on 1st June and there is an urgent move to ensure that critical areas are being addressed to offer a satisfactory state of readiness. This will not be an easy task for many. However, let me assure you that the Government is doing its part to contribute to the readiness activities.
Cabinet has identified a number of priority areas that are being supported financially, including with support from partners. The focus of our decisions has been on the protection of people, critical equipment, and facilities in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane impacting our islands.
The Department of Disaster Management is leading a number of projects. These include repairs to emergency shelters and identification of new facilities, restorations and strengthening of early warning and emergency communication systems, the clearing of marine shelters, the cleaning of ghuts and watersheds, improvements to the Disaster Management Act, the development of contingency stocks, the protection of critical records and critical emergency response assets, training for community groups and other persons and the launch of a campaign geared towards ensuring that residents are ready for what may come this hurricane season.
By way of update:
- There are currently twenty-six (26) buildings that can be used as emergency shelters across the Territory.
- An additional fourteen (14) which have been financed and will soon commence repair works so that they too can be added to the list of available facilities and be ready for the peak of the season. These structures include mainly Church Halls and Community Centers with owners repairing and providing these facilities for emergency sheltering I am very grateful for their support.
- A legal drafter (Ms. Tira Greene of Anguilla) is reviewing the Disaster Management Act, to ensure that the lessons from 2017 can be incorporated into the existing Bill. Ms. Greene is expected to present a Draft to Cabinet by early August.
- A security plan is also in place in the event of a disaster.
- While many agencies await insurance payouts, funding has been provided to initiate the immediate repairs that are needed to offer some level of protection to our critical emergency response, law enforcement, and border control agencies for the protection of employees and assets. Protection for the new stock of vehicles being acquired is also part of these discussions.
- As a result of the level of vulnerability posed to our Sister Islands, contingency stocks will be prepositioned on these islands to support immediate response.
- Extra communications equipment is being purchased by the Government and with further UK support.
- The UK is also advancing preparations ahead of the peak hurricane season to support the Overseas Territories and BVI if needed. This includes pre-deploying supplies in the region, having the military at a state of readiness to deploy and maintaining the relief ship RFA Mounts Bay in the region and discussions with international and regional partners to provide support to affected countries and Territories if needed.
I am aware that the preparations have been difficult as a result of the extent of the impacts from the floods and devastating hurricanes but I urge the private sector to do what they can to ensure that they too can set clear priorities and work swiftly to achieve them, both in clearing up debris, prioritizing repairs and in ensuring strong business continuity plans are in place.
Finally, I want to urge community members to work closely with the local Non-Governmental Organisations and volunteers to ensure that we can deliver training programmes and awareness campaign to meet your specific needs. This week workshops commence aiming at training persons to support a national relief management programme. This workshop will be followed by training that will target some 40 teachers and administrators through a joint effort between the Adventist Development & Relief Agency, United Nations Children Fund, the Ministry of Education and the Department for Disaster Management. The month of July has been dedicated for community meetings and more training for community groups and volunteers and I will be joining some of these sessions on the Sister Islands.
It is important that we continue to work together to ensure that we can be ready and remain ready throughout the next 5 months. I will continue to provide you with updates on the progress of our readiness efforts as we advance into the active part of the Hurricane Season. As Government ramps up its preparations, I ask that you do likewise – clear up debris, prioritise repairs, stock up on supplies, support those in the community who may need assistance.