Minister Updates On Disaster Risk Team Work

November 1, 2019

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [Nov 1], Minister of National Security Wayne Caines provided an update on the work performed by the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Team to “ensure that Bermuda is prepared for any large scale natural or man-made disaster.”

The Minister covered a number of topics including the re-instatement of the Working Group on Climate Change, developing an all hazard Emergency Evacuation Plan for the Ferry Reach area, a Marine Contingency Pollution Plan, an Airport Emergency Plan, Public Health Emergency Response Plans and more.

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to update this Honourable House on the ongoing work performed by the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Team to ensure that Bermuda is prepared for any large scale natural or man-made disaster; and the team’s activities scheduled for the coming months.

Mr. Speaker, Climate Change has been a hot button issue throughout the international media. Some Honourable Members will be aware that Bermuda hosted its first Climate Risk Forum, this past Wednesday, October 30th, at the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club. The event was attended by Mayor Bloomberg and other notable academics in the Climate Change Field. Discussions at the Forum focused on the likely effects of climate change, supported by scientific data.

Mr. Speaker, the data suggests that small islands will feel these effects first. Bermuda’s scientist have documented that sea level has been raised by 19 inches since 1876. In the ten year period between 2007 and 2017, the sea level rose 3 inches. With rising sea levels, temperatures, and record setting hurricanes being reported, it is becoming increasingly imperative that Bermuda understand the effects that climate change will have right here at home. Therefore, I am asking for the re-instatement of the Working Group on Climate Change. It is anticipated that the group will become a formal Board tasked with ensuring Bermuda is well informed on the effects of Climate Change and be equipped to manage accordingly.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will be aware that the Atlantic Basin experienced a fairly busy hurricane season. At one point, there were as many as seven tropical systems churning. On the 1st of September 2019 The Bahamas had the unfortunate experience of suffering a direct hit by Category 5 Hurricane Dorian. The storm devastated the Abaco Islands and portions of Grand Bahama Island. There was loss of life, homes were destroyed and landscape was damaged. The Bermuda Government was inundated with requests from numerous individuals, businesses and organizations wanting to assist with relief efforts in true Bermudian spirit.

Mr. Speaker, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Team were tasked as the lead agency to coordinate efforts and ensure that the resources were directed to the appropriate agencies. Honourable Members will recall that the HMS Protector was coincidentally in Bermuda at the time and agreed to transport some relief supplies to the Bahamas on behalf of the people of Bermuda. The generous Bermudian people quickly responded and the Hamilton Seventh Day Adventist Church Hall was quickly overwhelmed with goods, and volunteers to help pack the goods for transport to Bahamas. The HMS Protector departed Bermuda on Monday September 9, loaded with relief supplies. Bermuda’s National Disaster Coordinator travelled onboard to continue logistics planning for the arrival of the goods.

Mr. Speaker, an additional four [4] forty foot containers were packed by the DRRM in conjunction with BEST Shipping. BEST graciously provided the containers, stored the goods and assisted with the onward transport of the containers to the Bahamas. Best Shipping, Meyer Agencies and Container Ship Management waived their local fees. The Green family covered the costs of transporting the containers from Florida to Nassau, Bahamas. The Bahamian Association oversaw the distribution of the supplies once they arrived in Bahamas. The Bermuda Government would like to thank every volunteer, every business and anyone who participated in this relief effort. This was truly a community effort and the people of the Bahamas greatly appreciated our assistance.

Mr. Speaker, on September 16th, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Team, and the Emergency Measures Organization had the opportunity to test our own hurricane responsiveness plans. The aim of the DRRM team was to set confidence in the local and overseas community through effective and timely communications to the public. As the island anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Humberto, the DRRM team worked with the EMO Executive to coordinate inter-agency activities and ensure that pertinent information was dispersed to all relevant agencies and partner organizations. The EMO Executive met every day at 10am to address hurricane matters and updates until Humberto had passed and was no longer a threat.

Mr. Speaker, as Humberto passed, and with Hurricane Jerry threatening to follow behind, I had the opportunity to see the work of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Team first hand. The team was stationed at COMOPS and at Ministry of National Security Headquarters to co-ordinate the actions and activities of all agencies. I was impressed with their organisation and professionalism. Members of the team worked tirelessly to ensure that Bermuda was well informed and well equipped to weather the storm. Of particular note, for the first time, signers for the deaf and hard of hearing were used at EMO press briefings, further ensuring that important messaging could be accessed by the entire community.

Mr. Speaker, in my last update of the DRRM Team I informed this Honourable House and the public of the Team’s focus on developing an all hazard Emergency Evacuation Plan for the Ferry Reach area, including the two prisons. Since that update, a working group comprising of the DRRM Team, SOL Petroleum, RUBIS Energy, and Ferry Reach community representatives have completed Phase One of the plan. The plan was distributed to the wider community and has been well received.

Mr. Speaker, Phase One of the plan prescribes using a small government ferry to evacuate residents from the dock located on the Prison Farm property, then deliver residents to the Fisheries dock located at Coney Island. Residents will then be escorted and temporarily located at the Bailey’s Bay Field to receive medical attention and have basic welfare needs addressed.

Mr. Speaker, planning for Phase Two will incorporate logistics pertaining to advance medical needs, long-term shelter, mass transportation, security, and extended welfare requirements to support a maximum of 600 people for up to seven days. I am pleased to report that the target date to have the completed Plan remains December 1, 2019.

Mr. Speaker, oil pollution on our shores is a real threat and one that we must be prepared for. To that end, the DRRM Team works with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ensure that the Marine Contingency Pollution Plan is adequate. A training session was held in March of this year that saw a total of 70 people receive Level One training in Oil Pollution Response.

Mr. Speaker, a DRRM team member continues to work closely with Government House, Government Departments and private entities on updating contingency plans for National Infrastructure. The planning includes facilitating tours to familiarize the responders with the ground layout, industry terminologies, mapping updates and partnerships with stakeholders. In particular, the DRRM team is working with Skyport Corporation to develop the Airport Emergency Plan in anticipation of the opening of the new international airport in 2020.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members may recall that Bermuda was involved in a regional tsunami exercise in March. The exercise tested Bermuda’s communications capabilities. The DRRM team continues to be involved with finding viable ways to alert the public of pending national emergencies. These efforts are in conjunction with The Department of Communications [which successfully launched the “Tree Frog” Notification App earlier this year], the Bermuda Weather Service, Maritime Operations, and other EMO agencies as well as the private sector. Additionally, a DRRM team member sits on the steering committee for the new government radio initiative which will allow inter-agency operability once implemented.

Mr. Speaker, from June 12-14, the Government Cybersecurity Manager, attached to the DRRM team, travelled with representatives from the Ministry of National Security to participate in the Regional Conference on policies and strategies on Cybercrime for the Caribbean Community held in the Dominican Republic. The conference focused on international cooperation and the establishment of good practices to combat cybercrime at the national and international levels.

Mr. Speaker, October was Cybersecurity Month. Events were planned by the Cybersecurity Governance Board. Two of the DRRM team members sit on this Board. Honourable Members will be aware that the Board has made a total of eight presentations with the goal of informing the public of the activities that are planned from the Government Cybersecurity Strategy. The Cybersecurity Governance Board is continuing its review of Bermuda’s cybercrime legislation to ensure that it is aligned with international standards.

Mr. Speaker, the DRRM Team’s National Event Planning Coordinator has been actively involved in the planning for the safety and security of upcoming large-scale events, including the Bermuda Championship PGA Tour Event that is happening at Port Royal now. From the time it was confirmed that Bermuda would host this event, the National Events Planning Coordinator has been involved in meetings between the organisers, and Government Ministries, Emergency Service providers and non-governmental entities such as the Bermuda Hospital Board and St. John’s Ambulance to ensure that the event is professionally and safely organised. Hosting events such as the PGA Tour gives Bermuda an opportunity to showcase to the world that Bermuda is capable of successfully and safely accommodating prestigious sporting and entertainment events.

Mr. Speaker, Bermuda will play host to a number of other high profile events in 2020, including the Carifta Games which will be held in April. Planning meetings with the organisers have recently commenced and further updates will be provided as they become available. The National Events Coordinator works alongside the Liquor Licensing Authority and the Bermuda Police Service as well as other stakeholders to ensure that these public events are properly organized to decrease the risk of a major incident occurring, that could lead to injuries or jeopardize Bermuda’s reputation.

Mr. Speaker, in line with recommendations for the World Health Organisation and Pan American Health Organisation, a Disaster Health Coordinator has been appointed to work alongside the DRRM Team. It is intended that this appointment will develop a joined up approach between health planning and disaster contingency planning. A regional health exercise is being planned to allow Bermuda to test its Public Health Emergency Response Plans.

Mr. Speaker, the work of the DRRM Team is important in ensuring that Bermuda is prepared for any large scale natural or man-made disaster. I will continue to update this Honourable House on this work and the important work of all of the Departments and Units within the Ministry of National Security.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Ringmaster says:

    Was Bermuda prepared for the damage to roofs from Hurricane Humberto? No, as there are no roof slates to repair roofs. Basic and you failed.

  2. PANGARA says:

    One of the biggest island wide risks that can beset Bermuda are diseases caused by people who have no respect for cleanliness.