By Christopher Tobutt
Hazard Management organized two important hurricane exercises in a big meeting room in the Government Administration Building recently. On the first day, All the heads of relevant government departments and agencies were gathered together to make sure that in the event of a hurricane, they would all be working together in harmony with one another. The second day included a ‘table top exercise’ which involved an even wider range of hazard management stakeholders.
“This is the annual hurricane exercise of Hazard Management, where we test the activation and operation of the National Emergency Operations Centre,” explained Hazard Management’s Director, Danielle Coleman. “Unlike previous years, this year is very much focused on the aftermath, so the response and recovery of the disaster, as opposed to the alert, watch and warning phase of the disaster.”
The first of the two-day sessions was the council briefing, and involving the Chairman of the Council and the heads of government departments, council groups and emergency support teams and chief officers. The next day included much more of the private sector as well. It involved a ‘table top’ exercise with the full activation of the National Emergency Centre and the Policy Group, and the Governor and Premier The table top exercise explores various scenarios of what might be expected in the aftermath of a hurricane, such as what would happen if the roof blew off a shelter, Ms Coleman explained.
Effective response in any big emergency depends on organization of the different group involved, and knowing exactly what each group’s role is, so that if a disaster strikes, no time is lost in confusion or duplication of effort. “We have four ‘cluster groups’ for emergency response, human concerns, infrastructure and sports services and of these cluster groups we have seventeen emergency support groups,” Ms Coleman added. “We have changed somewhat this year to having a much more informal discussion about what everyone else is doing. We usually feed it into the electronic emergency operating system. But this year it is more of a facilitative discussion about what each emergency support unit is doing and when.”
Crisis Hub is the name for a new missing person software application which Hazard Management has been working on, and wished to introduce during the sessions. Important topics for discussion also included shelter capacity, as well as the introduction two new animal shelters.
One of the many participants in the exercise included Edward Tinling-Miller, Red Cross Disaster Manager. “Cayman Islands Red Cross is an auxiliary to Government we also play an essential role in disaster relief and management. Our current shelter holds 95 people, so it’s important that its ready to go. The point of the exercise is to make sure that that we are all aligned, on the same page and we have every representative from every key government agency. We have a staff base of seven members of staff, and we have a volunteer base of 200 volunteers. They play a key role in our community especially with our container project.” The strategically-place containers in the community have such as tarpaulins for the roofs of properties, sanitation cleaning kits generators, cots, tools and agricultural equipment which are useful in the aftermath of a hurricane, Mr. Tinling-Miller explained.
(L-r) Danielle Coleman, Director of Hazard Management; John Tibbetts, Director General of Islands National Weather Service; Lennox Vernon, Hazard Management; Edward Tinling-Miller, Distaster Management Cayman Island Red Cross; and Teresita DaSilva, Acting Deputy, Hazard Management