Department: Department of Disaster Management
Improved partnership and a stronger ability to respond to major storms is expected after a table-top hurricane exercise brought together key members of the National Emergency Operations Centre and members of the Royal Navy Caribbean Task Force.
Acting Director of the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Mr. Jasen Penn, said that representatives from key government agencies, statutory bodies, and community-based organisations participated in the exercise as if it were a real storm. Being joined by personnel stationed aboard, HMS Medway added a regional component to the exercise and provided valuable insight regarding the ship’s pre- and post-impact capabilities.
“We had good representation from the local partner agencies who shared some examples of how they have updated their emergency response procedures in recent years,” Mr. Penn said, adding, “Having all the partners together helped to re-inforce national emergency plans. While we all have different areas of focus, we share priorities, which are to protect lives and property and to restore essential services as efficiently as possible in case of a serious hazard impact in the BVI.”
Key areas of focus for the exercise included communication before, during and after a major hurricane; activation and de-activation of the National Emergency Operations Centre; emergency health services; carrying out initial damage assessments; and bringing utilities back on-line after a disruption.
Major Dom Gosling from the Caribbean Task Group, said: “Being able to join key members of the National Emergency Operations Centre for the hurricane exercise provided an invaluable opportunity to meet the team and appreciate the specific needs of the Virgin Islands. Exercising with the team before a hurricane impact has enabled a much better understanding of response priorities and will allow the Royal Navy Task Group to integrate more quickly into the coordinated NEOC response.”
HMS Medway arrived in the Virgin Islands on October 22 and departed October 26. While in the Territory, ship officers made calls on the Premier, Governor, and Commissioner of Police. They carried out disaster preparedness activities such as emergency communications testing with DDM and the hurricane table top exercise with the National Emergency Operations Centre. On Sunday, a public demonstration in the Queen Elizabeth II Park showcased post-disaster capabilities, supplies, vehicles and equipment, including exercises on the water with the members of Royal Virgin Islands Police marine patrol, Her Majesty’s Customs, and the volunteers of Virgin Islands Search & Rescue.
HMS Medway is a River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel launched in 2017. It is permanently deployed to the Caribbean to support disaster relief and conduct counter-trafficking operations.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos included
Caption 1: National Emergency Operations Centre and HMS Medway personnel carried out a table top hurricane response exercise on Monday, October 25 at Government House. (Photo: Crown Copyright 2021)
Caption 2: BVI families gathered at Queen Elizabeth II Park on Sunday, October 24to observe and try out some of the HMS Medway’s disaster response equipment. (Photo: Crown Copyright 2021)