While the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME) is declaring full preparedness on its part for this hurricane season, it is nervous that the chink in its mitigation armory could be ill-preparedness especially on the part of the residential community.
Those concerns were highlighted by Mike Clerveaux, Acting Director of the DDME, while hosting a news conference with Minister responsible for that department Hon. Arlington Musgrove, and other key government agencies, at the DDME Office in Providenciales on June 1.
Clerveaux pointed out that while it is all systems go for the government agencies, which also include the Public Words Department and the Planning Department, the key cog in the preparedness wheel is the community.
“Our resilience is not based on only that (readiness of the government and the private sector). Our resilience is based on the community…how well is the average man prepared? Have they been preparing their home? Do they follow the building code? Do they know their risks? That is going to tell us how we are going to bounce back,” Clerveaux pointed out.
He asserted that the DDME has never ceased to hammer the importance of getting prepared ahead of a natural disaster on the part of the community, because it would be only then that that office could safely determine the overall level of preparedness for the country.
“And that is why we keep on preaching ‘be prepared’. This is the time for us to prepare. Because if the average man is not prepared…if the community is not prepared, no matter what we put in place, we are still going to have some problems,” Clerveaux insisted.
Clerveaux was at one with Minister Musgrove, who stated that the current readiness of the Turks and Caicos Islands trumps the preceding years.
“I do think the DDME is far more prepared that it was in 2017..as the years go by it is a learning curve and you gain more experience,” Minister Musgrove said, revealing that some of the plans he saw in place, to trigger into action in the wake of a hurricane, would get the country back in near full operation mere hours after the passage of a storm.
“The plan I see in place with the people we have on board, if a hurricane happens today, or if any story happens today, I think we will come out fairly good. We are having meetings with the TCIAA (Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority)…that’s the first place we cleaned up… and looking at their plans, they can be up in a few hours (after a storm). So, I think we would really do better this time around, Minister Musgrove emphasized.
Clerveaux, in the meantime, echoed Minister Musgrove’s sentiments on the readiness of the government systems.
“I think from 2017 compared with today, we are in a far better position. We have been having a lot of meetings, we have been putting plans and policies in place, we have been improving our communication system,” he said, stating that the communications tower, which was ascertained last year, should keep connections going during and after a storm.
“As you can tell, we have a (communications) tower now, which back in 2017, communication was a big factor for us…we have improved that,” he said, stating also that meetings with what he described as key stakeholders, have been ongoing.
“We have regular meetings with key stakeholders, and one of the key things that we are trying to find out is – where are we now? Have we made improvements on this, or have we made tremendous improvements on that? But from the government or the private sector or the key stakeholder sector, we are pretty much prepared,” Clerveaux said.
Also at the news conference were Roger Harvey, Assistant Maintenance Manager at the Public Works Department, who updated the country on, among other things, the maintenance of wells and storm drains; Eugene Williams, Development Control Engineer at the Department of Planning, who enlightened the news conference about the compliance measures those raising buildings would have to adhere, to mitigate against natural disasters; and Dr. Holly Hamilton, the TCI’s Director of Meteorology at the TCI Airports Authority, who highlighted the nature of the climate and its implications.