Statement on International Day of Disaster Reduction (IDDR) Cayman Islands Minister for Financial Services & Home Affairs, Hon. Tara Rivers, JP, MLA
Since it began more than 25 years ago, the day has grown into a major global awareness event celebrated in many ways to encourage efforts to build more disaster-resilient communities and nations. The focus this year is on how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters, with a goal of minimising economic losses.
The strength of our economy and the resilience of our communities depend (in part) on our ability to respond to critical incidents when they occur. This is a collaborative effort that encompasses several agencies, organisations and volunteer groups.
As the Minister responsible for Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI), I can confirm that the department continues to work with private and public-sector stakeholders to test and improve all hazard plans, strengthen existing procedures and protocols, and provide our first responders, as well as our volunteer teams, with the training and equipment they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
HMCI has developed detailed National Response Plans related to a variety of hazards including hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, oil spills, hazardous materials incidents, etc.
Currently there are approximately 150 active volunteers in the Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) programme across Grand Cayman, in addition to 50 residents in Cayman Brac who established the first ever Brac CERT team.
In collaboration with the Department of Children Services, HMCI facilitated the annual training for shelter managers earlier this year with the largest attendance ever recorded of 166 volunteers. The goal with all training of shelter volunteers is to prepare them to undertake this essential function in a time of crisis should the need arise, and for the first time a sub-group of these volunteers were selected for additional specialized training for the roles of Shelter Managers and District Representatives.
With the Ministry’s support, HMCI also delivers a robust programme of public awareness and outreach to schools and health care workers, as well as specialised training to Red Cross volunteers to ensure that there is a strong level of national preparedness across all Islands, at all levels.
Building on these partnerships, on October 15th, approximately 40 of our first responders across all Islands will go through Mass Casualty Management and Incident Command Systems training to further practice protocols and determine where further improvements are necessary. Their response capabilities will be tested from a range of scenarios to ensure a coordinated, efficient multi-agency response to all major incidents.
A number of these types of training exercises have already been conducted throughout the year including the Inshore Search and Rescue exercise with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the Cayman Islands Fire Service and the Department of Public Safety Communications; HMCI’s tsunami warning exercise, the annual National Hurricane Exercise and the Airport Emergency Exercise.
From a technology stand point, with the establishment of the National Public Safety Radio System, the Cayman Islands is now home to the most modern radio system for first responders in the region. To ensure maximum operability and business continuity, installation of the mission-critical radio system has already been taking place across all three Islands, with completion expected before the end of this year.
In addition, the National Emergency Notification System was officially established, which allows for the interruption of any radio programme to enable the broadcast of a public advisory to warn of an impending disaster. This is especially important when there is a sudden onset event like a tsunami. The next phases will enable the interruption of television programmes, in addition to sending wireless emergency alerts to mobile networks via cell broadcast across the Islands.
This Government is committed to promoting safer and stronger communities because we recognise the value in being well prepared and we know that we cannot afford to be complacent. We will continue to invest in training for personnel and volunteers, and in technology in order to reduce risks and build greater resilience to protect the people of the Cayman Islands, our infrastructure and our economy.
So, on International Day for Disaster Reduction I strongly encourage you to be well prepared on a personal level and if you are interested in supporting the wider community, please contact HMCI to find out more about how you can help make Cayman stronger.
I thank you all for your continued support. May God continue to bless and protect these beautiful Cayman Islands.