Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Inadequate hurricane drills worry St James’ disaster coordinator

Published:Saturday | June 3, 2023 | 12:58 AM
Tamoy Sinclair, disaster coordinator for St James.
Tamoy Sinclair, disaster coordinator for St James.

Tamoy Sinclair, parish coordinator of disaster preparedness at the St James Municipal Corporation (St JMC), has expressed concerns that too few businesses are engaging employees in responses to hurricane circumstances.

Sinclair highlighted this shortcoming after watching a recent Jamaica Public Service (JPS) hurricane simulation exercise at their Bogue Power Plant this week.

“The JPS’ islandwide hurricane simulation, which is an annual exercise, is commendable and is exemplary of what we would want to see across the board for the business community. We don’t see many companies carrying out these simulation exercises, and it can be a cause for concern,” Sinclair said in a media release.

“What we look for during an emergency simulation exercise is adherence to standard operating procedures (SOP). We would like each entity to share with us their state of readiness,” she noted, “It is interesting to see the JPS’ execution of their SOPs, how they handle the situation, their recovery time in adhoc situations, and their response capabilities.”

Sinclair, who, along with Trevion Manning, director of planning at the St JMC, who also observed the JPS’ hurricane simulation, wants large and small businesses to carry out hurricane drills, particularly now that the 2023 hurricane season has started.

“All businesses must have a disaster management plan. However, we find that it is mostly larger corporations, like utility companies, government agencies, and players in the hotel sector who will stage emergency drills because they may still have ongoing operations even during a hurricane,” revealed Sinclair.

She also said that “smaller businesses that can shutter their shops and return after a hurricane are not really in the habit of carrying out simulation exercises, even though the StJMC has reached out to those entities on numerous occasions”.

Sinclair noted that the disaster unit at the corporation has hosted a number of meetings and seminars targetting the business community, but she admitted to not seeing “the follow-up that we would have wanted in terms of participants actually preparing and sharing their disaster management plans”.

Oral Heaven, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he did not have the data to support or deny the claim and concerns raised by the disaster coordinator at this time, but promised to canvass his membership into gauging their staff’s level of readiness, should a hurricane come to the island.

“As a chamber, we will engage the membership now that we are in a hurricane season, on what their level of preparations are, should there be a hurricane, and how they are preparing,” Heaven said yesterday in a Gleaner interview.

“I know that year after year, businesses have made preparations. They have their hurricane kits, and do their drills,” said Heaven.

“Once a business has been established for over two years, it will have its hurricane drills in place,” he added.