Dart’s hurricane team to share experiences

| 12/12/2008

(CNS): Offering the benefit of their experience to a regional audience, Derek Haines and Chris Pope of Dart Realty will be joining the National Hurricane Conference’s Latin America & Caribbean committee and speak at the Caribbean All-Hazards conference next week in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Although the conference will cover all types of natural hazards, the presentation by Haines and Pope will focus primarily on hurricane preparedness and emergency planning.

According to a statement released by Dart Realty, the conference seeks to bring together government agencies, emergency personnel, academic institutions and the private sector to exchange information and develop methods to reduce the harmful impacts of hazards and disasters in the Caribbean region.

The 2008 hurricane season, which officially ended last week, was the fourth most active on record with a total of sixteen named storms. The two major storms which affected the Cayman Islands, Hurricanes Gustav and Paloma, saw hurricane contingency plans deployed across the country. Haines and Pope, who are responsible for Dart’s hurricane preparations, will share their experiences and make recommendations for effective contingency planning using Camana Bay as an example.

“One of the most successful aspects of our preparations this year was the conversion of the parking structure at Camana Bay into an emergency refuge for staff, tenants and their families," said Haines, Operations Manager at Dart Realty. “The multi-storey car park on Forum Lane was screened in using a special hurricane fabric, providing ample space for families to shelter from the storm. The set-up worked extremely well and we received positive feedback from those who stayed overnight for Gustav in August.”

The fabric is a new technology that has been widely used and tested in the United States, but had not previously been used in Cayman, Dart said in a release. The light-weight material’s protective strength has proven to be comparable if not more effective than traditional steel or aluminium hurricane shutters. An additional bonus is the visibility that the material provides, allowing occupants of the shelter to see what is happening outdoors.

“The screened parking structure is ideal for a refuge as it provides large amounts of floor space at increasing levels of height, plus there is no roof to come off,’ explained Haines. “After the storm has passed, the panels can be easily removed allowing the breezes through, which means there is no problem running either generators or barbeques if emergency accommodation is required for any length of time.  During Gustav, we provided basic necessities such as cots, toilets and a first aid post to make people as comfortable as possible, but the car park is only intended to act as an emergency refuge rather than a fully equipped shelter.”

Haines added that the experience in running a refuge, such as the importance of keeping a careful headcount, providing marshals and segregating animals from humans, are all topics that will be discussed at the conference.

“The conversion of a parking structure into an emergency refuge has garnered attention locally, as both private sector organisations and government agencies have been to view the set-up to see if similar systems might be viable elsewhere on the island. With just the two Camana Bay parking structures alone, the system would allow us to double if not triple emergency refuge capacity on the island in the case of a national emergency,” added Pope, Logistics and Purchasing Manager at Dart Realty. “We have also been working with the fire, police and health services to discuss how we can help in housing emergency vehicles and staff during a storm, allowing them to provide effective relief in the aftermath.”

At the All-Hazards Conference in Jamaica next week, Haines and Pope will discuss best practices for emergency refuge operation and the importance of planning and preparedness for businesses, governments and individual families, and will also cover post-evacuation and business continuity plans.

‘In a region that is vulnerable to natural hazards, we have the additional challenge of being isolated on different islands,’ said Pope. “The aim of the conference is to pool our resources so that the All-Hazards committeecan act like a FEMA for the Caribbean. We are honoured to have been invited to speak, and look forward to a productive and rewarding week ahead.”

Also representing the Cayman Islands on the All-Hazards conference committee is Dr Barbara Carby, Director of Hazard Management. The All-Hazard Conference runs from 15 to 17 December at Rose Hall Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica. For more information, visit www.caribbeanallhazards.org.

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