Government agencies and key partners pledged to continue to work in close partnership to ensure that the Virgin Islands is as prepared as possible for the hurricane season during the annual meeting of the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) held June 22.
His Excellency the Governor, John J. Rankin, who chairs the NDMC, said that close collaboration has been key to ensuring adequate preparedness in recent years.
“This is an area where the Premier and I are working together with the Deputy Governor and the Permanent Secretaries, as well as the Department of Disaster Management,” Governor Rankin said. He added, “We all must be prepared and the current warm temperatures are perhaps yet further evidence of the climate change affecting the planet and the risk of more disruptive weather patterns to come.”
Council members shared updates on key actions taken so far such as marine and land-based emergency shelter inspections; structural integrity checks for key public facilities; repairs at schools; ghut clearance; training for first responders, and testing of emergency plans.
Premier, Honourable Dr. Natalio Wheatley thanked the council for their demonstrated commitment to improving the Territory’s resilience.
“I look forward to our continued collaboration toward integrating resilience into all of our systems,” Dr. Wheatley said, adding that in light of the early formation of named storms this season, the Territory cannot afford to rely on hope.
“We have to be on top of our game and take action to be prepared for the possibility of storms or hurricanes,” the Premier said.
Deputy Governor David D. Archer, Jr. gave an overview of the 2023 Public Service Readiness Assessment, which gathers data about response plans, emergency operations plans, and measures to protect public officers and equipment.
“We know that the hazard environment is constantly evolving, so we likewise seek to constantly improve the levels of readiness within the Public Service,” Mr. Archer said.
The group also heard a report on key public sector readiness from Director of Disaster Management Jasen Penn; a report from BVI Red Cross Director Stacy Lloyd on the organisation’s disaster risk reduction activities; and a hurricane season outlook from DDM Meteorologist Andrew Jackson.
The June 22 meeting was the group’s first time meeting in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. NDMC is the inter-agency body that sets Territorial disaster risk reduction policy. This body is responsible for carrying out actions that are in keeping with the Disaster Management Act and the Virgin Islands Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy. The group includes Permanent Secretaries, the Financial Secretary, as well as leaders from key government departments, statutory bodies, and non-governmental partners.