Public officers discuss hurricane preparations last Thursday during the annual meeting of the National Disaster Management Council. (Photo: GIS)

Government agencies and their private-sector partners pledged to continue working closely together on hurricane preparations last Thursday at the annual meeting of the National Disaster Management Council.

Governor John Rankin, who chairs the NDMC, said such collaboration has been crucial to disaster preparedness in recent years.

“This is an area where the premier and I are working together with the deputy governor and the permanent secretaries, as well as the Department of Disaster Management,” Mr. Rankin said, adding, “We all must be prepared, and the current warm temperatures are perhaps yet further evidence of the climate change affecting the planet and the risk of more disruptive weather patterns to come.”

The session was the council’s first in-person meeting since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Government Information Services.

Attendees provided updates on preparations including marine and land-based emergency shelter in spections; structural integrity checks for “key” public facilities; school repairs; ghut clearance; first-responder training; and testing of emergency plans, GIS stated.

Public service

Also during the meeting, Deputy Governor David Archer Jr. provided an overview of the 2023 Public Service Readiness Assessment, which gathers data about response plans, emergency operations plans, and measures to protect public officers and equipment.

“We know that the hazard environment is constantly evolving, so we likewise seek to constantly improve the levels of readiness within the public service,” Mr. Archer said.

The group also heard a report on public-sector readiness from DDM Director Jasen Penn; a report from BVI Red Cross Director Stacy Lloyd on the organisation’s disaster-risk reduction work; and a hurricane season outlook from DDM meteorologist Andrew Jackson.

‘Integrating resilience’

Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley thanked participants for their commitment to improving the territory’s resilience.

“I look forward to our continued collaboration toward integrating resilience into all of our systems,” Dr. Wheatley said

Given the early formation of named storms this season, he added, the territory cannot afford to rely on hope.

“We have to be on top of our game and take action to be prepared for the possibility of storms or hurricanes,” the premier said.

The council

NDMC is an inter-agency body that sets policy for disaster-risk reduction in the territory. Its work is guided by the Disaster Management Act and the Virgin Islands Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy.

Members include permanent secretaries, the financial secretary, and other leaders from key government departments, statutory bodies, and non-governmental partners.