2018 Hurricane Exercise
Published 3rd May 2018, 11:17am
The National Hurricane Exercise began at 4 pm on May 1st with a meeting of the full National Hazard Management Council in the main conference room (1038) on the ground floor of the Government Administration Building.
The exercise commenced with opening remarks from the Chairman of the National Hazard Management Council, Deputy Governor the Honourable Franz Manderson and Minister for Home Affairs, Hon. Tara Rivers. Minister Rivers commended all public and private sector personnel for taking an active role in the exercise. “These simulation exercises are very important as they enable us to critically assess the response capability and coordination of the various agencies involved; and help to identify areas that may need strengthening prior to the start of the hurricane season, ensuring that the country is in a maximum state of readiness.”
Following the welcome and opening remarks, the Director of the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, John Tibbetts provided a review of 2017 hurricane season, the forecast outlook for 2018 and details of the scenario for this year’s hurricane exercise.
On May 2nd, heads of the 16 Emergency Support Teams and the Policy Group convened at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) at 9 am for the 2018 hurricane table top exercise, which was named after Mr. Kirkland Nixon who recently passed away. Mr. Nixon pioneered the development of disaster management in the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Nixon also led the Cayman Islands Fire Service for many years, helped establish the National Hurricane Committee (NHC) and was pivotal in the creation of Hazard Management Cayman Islands.
The hurricane exercise ran through the entire day on May 2nd and concluded with a review of lessons learned during the exercise, and recommendations for adjustments and updates to the National Plan from the Council, Emergency Support Teams and NOEC Cluster Managers.
Deputy Director of Preparedness, Danielle Coleman explained that: “A typical table top exercise involves key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal setting and it can be a very useful tool for assessing plans, policies and procedures. The scenario is expected to provide a reasonably realistic depiction of a hurricane on approach, the impact and post impact and it will allow us to examine the Country’s planning mechanisms.”
The Policy Group includes a number of very senior managers in government, such as the Deputy Governor, the Director of Government Information Services, the Head of the Governor’s Office and the Cabinet Secretary amongst others. Some of the functions of this group include providing information and advice to H.E. the Governor, the Minister for Home Affairs and the Premier, and making executive decisions especially in the post impact, relief and recovery phases. Also in the NEOC are representatives from 16 Emergency Support Teams and each Support Team has a specific area of responsibility, such as debris clearance, shelters, search and rescue, relief aid, resource support etc. These 16 support teams are then grouped together into four clusters and each cluster has a Manager.
“The 2018 Exercise Hurricane Kirkland provided the opportunity for stakeholders to rehearse the NEOC systems and procedures, test their knowledge of existing procedures, validate those procedures and recommend changes to them” advised Ms. Coleman. “Obviously, it is important to practice and plan for hurricanes so we can improve our overall level of preparedness, mitigation and response. It also provided an opportunity to look at specific areas, such as improving inter-agency coordination and any training needs of personnel involved in the command and control of crisis situations to ensure that they are competent and confident in their roles.”
Minister for Home Affairs, Hon. Tara Rivers commended all public and private sector personnel for taking an active role in the exercise. “These simulation exercises are important as they enable us to critically assess the response capability and coordination of the various agencies involved. They also help to identify areas that may need strengthening prior to the start of the hurricane season, ensuring that we are in a maximum state of readiness.”
At the end of May, RFA Mounts Bay will be in the Cayman Islands to conduct a landing exercise as part of the preparations for this year’s hurricane season. The Royal Navy will replicate the landing of heavy duty equipment and supplies in the aftermath of a disaster. RFA Mounts Bay was critical to the recovery response in a number of other Overseas Territories following the devastation of Irma and Maria in 2017. The ability to deploy immediate help at short notice and be prepared well in advance of any major disaster is an essential part of our ongoing planning.