By Carol Winker
Cayman’s national hurricane plan was 181 pages long as of May 1. It could be longer after May 21.
That’s the day Hazard Management Cayman Islands has planned to hold the annual national hurricane exercise. The post-exercise review and debriefing may well result in some areas of the plan being further updated.
Other factors are also considered. New road construction, for example, could affect routes for emergency vehicles or evacuations. Retirements and promotions in the civil service will change who has what responsibilities in the various sub-committees that go into action from the first storm alert.
All government officers have a role in the preparation for and immediate response to a hurricane. They may be assigned to one of the 17 sub-committees organized in four clusters: Support Services, Emergency Response, Human Concerns and Infrastructure.
At the start of the hurricane season, the Shelter Sub-Committee submits a list of approved public shelters, assigns and trains shelter managers. Designation of selected Public Shelters as Emergency Medical Centers is the responsibility of the Medical Relief Services Sub-Committee on both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.
The responsibility for declaring a Hurricane Alert rests with Director General of the National Weather Services John Tibbetts in consultation with Hazard Management Director McCleary Frederick and chairman of the National Hazard Management Council Franz Manderson.
When directed, a National Emergency Operations Centre is set up at the Owen Roberts Airport Fire Service Station to serve as the central location for operations. All Operations Centre members will be present at the headquarters to help coordinate and implement committee decisions and remain until their presence is no longer required.
In Cayman Brac, the Emergency Operations Centre is set up in the Aston Rutty Centre by the Sister Islands Emergency Committee.
On the declaration of an Alert, all government entities, statutory authorities and government companies activate their respective hurricane plans. Chief officers notify all organizations under their responsibility. Sub-committee chairpersons notify sub-committee members. These members include people in the private sector, such as representatives of the Red Cross and Adventist Disaster Relief Agency; supermarkets and hardware stores; utilities, contractors and heavy equipment operators.
If events proceed to Watch and Warning stages, each of the 17 sub-committees carries out its tasks.
- JOINT COMMUNICATION SERVICES provides a framework for ensuring that accurate and timely information is communicated locally and internationally.
- CONTINUITY OF OPERATIONS refers to the continued functioning of constitutional government under all circumstances.
- RESOURCE SUPPORT arranges for the procurement of materials, supplies, equipment and/or personnel required to meet immediate needs.
- ECONOMIC IMPACT is responsible for damage assessment.
- INITIAL CLEARANCE AND DEBRIS MANAGEMENT provides emergency responders access to areas that have been obstructed, then ensures the safe disposition of debris.
- ECONOMIC CONTINUITY provides liaison between private and public sector during response and recovery operations.
- EVACUATION applies to both visitors and residents. The Department of Tourism will assist in coordinating visitor transportation to the airport. Residents may be ordered to evacuate an area of the island declared unsafe.
- DISTRICT EMERGENCY RESPONSE will usually come first from trained neighborhood teams.
- SEARCH AND RESCUE operations are the shared responsibility of the police and fire services.
- SECURITY AND LAW ENFORCEMENT will be provided by police officers deployed in shelters and identified key areas.
- SHELTER OPERATIONS will provide shelter to those members of the community who are unable to find appropriate shelters for themselves, with a priority on elderly people, hospital patients, essential workers and their families.
- RELIEF AID MANAGEMENT will be responsible for coordinating all efforts related to management of relief aid.
- MEDICAL RELIEF activities can range from basic first aid to assistance for the management of mass fatalities.
- MASS FATALITY MANAGEMENT addresses the potential impact of disaster conditions which result in substantial loss of life.
- EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS The National Emergency Operations Centre can communicate via telephone, fax, radio, SMS or email, VHF marine aeronautical channels and other land mobile radio frequencies plus satellite phones. The government radio communications network is available on all three islands; each island system is capable of independent operation if it becomes disconnected from the rest of the network.
- UTILITIES AND COMMUNICATIONS will coordinate technical responses that will ensure the integrity and/or restoration of communication and utility systems as quickly as possible.
- VOLUNTARY AGENCIES RESPONSE serves as the point of contact for all nongovernmental organizations, voluntary agencies and non-profit organizations that wish to play a role in the disaster management process.
The SISTER ISLANDS EMERGENCY COMMITTEE is differently constituted, but deals with the same responsibilities.