A new roof pour was recently completed at the new National Emergency Operations Centre in McNamara. (Photo: Provided)

More than six years after Hurricane Irma destroyed the National Emergency Operations Centre in McNamara, a new facility is slated to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year following a recent concrete roof pour, government announced last month.

A $9.8 million construction contract for the centre — which, like the former NEOC at the same location, will house the Department of Disaster Management — was awarded in January 2021 to Tandem Development and D&B Heavy Equipment Services Limited.

When the contract was announced, government said the works would take about 18 months, putting the completion date around July 2022.

Since then, officials have provided few updates even as the DDM has weathered major storms in temporary facilities in Road Town.

The project — which is managed by Virella Crespo and Associates — is being funded by the $65 million Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Loan that government sourced from the Caribbean Development Bank shortly after Hurricane Irma.


Besides housing the DDM, the new centre is designed to accommodate government operations in the event of a major emergency or hazard impact, and officials have said it will withstand natural disasters including hurricanes, earthquakes and landslides.

“The new [NEOC] features a foundation that was designed with ground anchors to ensure minimal movement during extreme weather; windows and doors rated far beyond Category 5 hurricanes; extra steelwork in size and quantity for increased rigidity; and an increased pound-per-square-inch for concrete, to ensure a stronger structure,” according to a Dec. 13 press release announcing the completed roof pour. “There has also been an increase in connectivity between structural elements to ensure minimal separation during earthquakes and other extreme weather events.”

The building will include amenities like solar technology and water storage that will help ensure that public officers can comfortably remain in it for an extended timeframe if needed to keep the government operating, according to the release.

‘State of the art’

Financial Secretary Jeremiah Frett said the government set out to rebuild the NEOC as a regional model for disaster preparedness and response.

He added that the project is vital to the territory’s National Disaster Management Plan.

“Now more than ever, there is an undeniable need to ensure we fund these projects that will help to safeguard our territory and better prepare us for disasters,” he said in the release. “The construction of a state-of-the-art NEOC is a major priority, and the government of the Virgin Islands remains fully committed to this.”

The press release didn’t explain the reasons for the delays with the project.

Lessons learned

Deputy Governor’s Office Permanent Secretary Sharleen DaBreo-Lettsome, a former DDM director, said in the release that the territory learned a lot during the 2017 storms.

“Our previous NEOC was destroyed during Hurricane Irma, displacing the government’s emergency operations centre,” she said. “We want to ensure that does not happen again. The construction of a NEOC that is resilient and sustainable is a major priority as we plan for the territory’s future.”