Territorial readiness was the focus at yesterday’s virtual meeting of the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC).
The meeting saw high-level discussions on key components of preparedness including the readiness of the public service, emergency shelters, COVID-19 considerations, Sister Islands needs and back-up communication plans.
The NDMC is chaired by His Excellency the Governor Augustus Jaspert and includes permanent secretaries and department heads from across the public service, as well as representatives from partner organisations such as non-governmental organisations and statutory bodies who provide critical services to the Territory.
Governor Jaspert thanked attendees for their work thus far in helping the Virgin Islands “be ready for anything, at any time.”
He also acknowledged that the present multi-hazard environment in which the Territory faces threats including a global pandemic and seismic activity as well as the Atlantic Hurricane Season poses a new challenge, but told the council he has faith in the Territory’s ability to meet that challenge.
Governor Jaspert said, “There is a lot of pressure on us, but we have one of the best-tested and strongest teams in the world, so I am confident in our ability to face this season.”
The Governor also highlighted the need for the entire BVI community to stay prepared throughout the season, adding that each person should stay informed, have an emergency plan, and keep essential supplies on hand.
Deputy Governor David Archer, Jr, provided a report on the Public Service Readiness Assessment, a tool which highlighted areas to be prioritised to improve territorial preparedness.
Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Social Development, Petrona Davies shared how COVID-19 is an integrated part of the Territory’s seasonal preparedness.
The council also heard an overview of what forecasters have predicted will be a more active season than usual from Department of Disaster Management Emergency Communications Manager, Jasen Penn; as well as an update on the readiness of the Sister Islands from Sister Islands Programme Coordinator, Sasha Flax.
Council members agreed to several urgent actions including finalising the Continuity of Government Plan, completing COVID-19 retrofits at the Territory’s Emergency Shelters, and advancing projects underway to ensure bulky waste is removed and waterways are clear throughout the Territory.
The NDMC meets at least once each year in keeping with the requirements of the National Disaster Management Act. Council meetings allow persons who play key roles in the Territory’s preparedness and response for all kinds of hazards, including hurricanes, an opportunity to share ideas and information. This cross-sector collaboration ensures that the Territory can plan the safest and most efficient response to disasters and emergencies.