Monday 1 June, 2020

Cayman Prepares for Hurricane Season

With hurricane season on the horizon, stakeholders from across various sectors meet to review and refine the National Hazard Management mechanism ahead of June 1 2020.

The two-day summit beginning 20 May, brings together representatives from across Cayman Islands Government and the Statutory Authorities to test the national response mechanism, identify potential areas for improvement and implement solutions.

While it’s widely noted that the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic which required the activation of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) in mid-March adds additional complexity to this annual planning exercise, the Minister for Home Affairs remains optimistic about the islands’ resilience ahead of the 2020 hurricane season.

“With the NEOC already fully activated, we are arguably in the best possible position to respond to a hurricane,” commented Hon. Tara Rivers, JP, MLA.

She continued, “Over the past two months, we have all witnessed the incredible work the civil service has achieved in response to the threat of COVID-19. The many challenges posed by this pandemic has resulted in the refinement of existing preparedness, mitigation, response and reactivation plans. Teams within the NEOC that were already high functioning, have established new thresholds for problem-solving within tight timeframes and in the face of competing priorities where lives were at stake. To say that these are unprecedented times is an understatement, but the silver lining is that numerous positive outcomes have been achieved in real-time, not just in simulation via a tabletop exercise. As a result, we are well-positioned to rise to challenges that may come during hurricane season 2020.”

Ensuring considerations for COVID-19 are incorporated into hurricane plans is the primary focus for this year’s exercise as there are implications across a number of essential areas, including shelter management.

“A lot of deliberation and discussions have already happened ahead of this exercise both internally amongst stakeholders and with our Overseas Territory partners. We all find ourselves being tested by these unparalleled events, so having this extended network available to us is a tremendous asset that enables us to collaborate on best solutions and approaches,” comments the Director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI), Danielle Coleman.

As part of the summit, heads of NEOC Emergency Support Teams undergo scenario stress tests to evaluate their readiness and capacity for hurricane season.

In addition to the meeting of the National Hazard Management Council which kicked off the event, for the first time, the National Hazard Management Executive, which includes members from several branches of government, will also take part in the exercise, which will ensure a more holistic approach to assessing the country’s readiness for hurricane season.

The exercise began with the Director-General of the Cayman Islands National Weather Service presenting the seasonal forecast which projects an active season in our region.

“Now is also a good opportunity for members of the public to assess their own readiness ahead of the hurricane season and begin making the necessary preparations,” encourages the HMCI Director.

“Revisit the supplies you already have, make a list of what you need and start stocking up on non-perishable goods on your regular trips to the grocery store. Get together with your family and review your personal hurricane plan so that you can make the necessary updates and take any action required well ahead of time.”

Visit www.caymanprepared.ky for more information and guidance on hurricane preparedness and related topics.

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