The Readiness Plan for the Virgin Islands is now in place, and efforts are being made to ensure that it is fully implemented ahead of the hurricane season.
The plan was approved when the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) convened its annual meeting on Thursday March 28 at the Department of Disaster Management.
The meeting was co-chaired by His Excellency the Governor Augustus Jaspert and Acting Premier Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley. In attendance were Minister for Health and Social Development Honourable Carvin Malone and Minister for Transportation, Works and Utilities Honourable Kye Rymer and various Public Service agencies.
In his remarks Governor Jaspert said it was a “getting ready meeting”, one that was called to review preparations to date and priority areas to focus on what we need to do to get ready for the Hurricane Season and for any unforeseen events that might occur throughout the year.
Governor Jaspert said, “We are here to focus on where our vulnerabilities lie and what we need to do to improve our state of readiness. Although a large number of activities were undertaken in 2018 to get us ready, we still went into the season with some level of vulnerability. We now need to ensure that we have addressed the key gaps that have been identified in this year’s plan.”
Governor Jaspert explained that he was particularly concerned that life and property would be safeguarded if the Territory was to experience impacts similar to 2017.
The Governor said that all Government owned facilities must have business continuity plans that are tested regularly, adding, “Work has been started in this regard on a number of buildings but it is important that we identify how we will protect public servants, critical equipment, vehicles and documents in the event of any significant impacts that might occur this year.”
Acting Premier, Dr. Wheatley, expressed his appreciation for the hard work done by many to get the Territory ready. He indicated that his Government is completely committed to the work of the NDMC.
Honourable Wheatley said, “As a new minister and with responsibility for the people of the Virgin Islands we understand that disasters have lots of consequences – loss of lives, loss of homes and businesses and destruction to our environment.”
Honourable Wheatley said, “We remember the impacts of 2017 and we are more aware of our vulnerabilities. We therefore take our responsibilities very seriously and will play our part in reducing our risks. Ultimately this is what saves lives. Our focus going forward is to help those who have been affected and still have not been able to recover and to ensure that we are ready for the impacts of future hazards.”The NDMC was 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 Cabinet. The Governor is the chairman and the Premier is the deputy chairman of the NDMC. The Governor has ultimate responsibility for the areas of preparedness, and response while the Premier is responsible for the areas of hazard mitigation and disaster recovery (comprised of rehabilitation and reconstruction).
The meeting concluded with the council defining a number of key priority areas including the enactment of the Disaster Management Bill 2018 which is soon to go before Cabinet for approval; addressing the capacity of the emergency services and border security agencies; records protection and management; recovery of the government’s estate; repairs and outfitting of emergency shelters (land based and marine); improvements in our damage and needs assessment capacity; development of a national transportation policy and plan; implementation of a livelihood protection programme and emergency communications.
A complete report from the meeting, including a statement on the level of readiness of the Territory, will be presented to Cabinet in the coming weeks.