- Written by FREEMAN ROGERS
- Published: 07 October 2017
As a result of Hurricane Irma, the Department of Disaster Management lost nearly 40 years’ worth of investment in technology and equipment designed to provide early warning of hazards that might threaten the Virgin Islands, Governor Gus Jaspert said during a Friday update on the territory’s ongoing recovery process.
“Efforts are being made to restore the department’s National Emergency Broadcasting System, which includes sirens, monitoring devices and communications networks essential for any disaster management system, along with the department’s building—which was also destroyed,” Mr. Jaspert said of the DDM, which is currently operating out of the National Emergency Operations Centre at the Ritter House on Wickhams Cay II.
The DDM headquarters in McNamara — which DDM Director Sharleen Dabreo had been warning for at least eight years needed to be replaced — was destroyed during Irma, causing members of the NEOC to flee in a traumatic mid-storm escape to the nearby home of Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool.
Though the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service also suffered severe losses to its buildings and trucks, Mr. Jaspert said the United Kingdom government has provided two multi-purpose “fire appliance” vehicles, which were handed over to the agency on Friday.
The vehicles were handed over by Brian Davidson and Paul Dyson, representatives of the UK’s Department for International Development, to Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool and Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean.
The vehicles will aid in responding to fire and rescue calls, according to government, which added that the agency now has four fire utility vehicles, including two fire engines.
Mr. Jaspert added that he is working with Premier Dr. Orlando Smith and other government ministers toward “fully implementing the Recovery Plan,” which he said “will see the Virgin Islands become even better than it was before.”
No such plan has been provided to the public, and attempts to obtain it were not immediately successful.
The governor did provide a few broad details, however.
“Ministers are working on key programmes in their respective areas,” he said. “Plans are being finalised for housing needs for those affected by Irma but who are not insured; and a plan is in place for education, and I am pleased that schools have started to reopen.”
He added that “a number of” ministries and departments “suffered considerable losses” from the storm, but “we have re-established government services and we are identifying critical resources which need to be quickly replaced.”
Though most of the United Kingdom military personnel left the territory this week, he said, the ship RFA Mounts Bay remains in Road Harbour and “a core team of specialist engineers” is still here to support infrastructural repairs.
The National Security Council met Thursday, he added, and he and the council are briefed regularly by Police Commissioner Michael Matthews on security matters.
“I am also grateful that we have continued support from police officers from the UK and our friends in other overseas territories,” he said.
In the future, the governor is planning to deliver an address every Friday unless urgent matters arise that necessitate an earlier message he said.
“As we move forward now, let me urge everyone to continue to demonstrate the community spirit of togetherness and resilience that has contributed to our progress to date,” he added. “The recovery efforts need to keep that same spirit of togetherness and mutual support shown so far for us to be successful as we go forward.”