Hurricane exercise goes high tech with tablets

| 06/05/2016
CNS Local Life

An NRA staff member during the exercise

(CNS): For the first time, government inspectors deployed a mobile emergency communications platform to monitor annual hurricane preparations. Using tablet computers, managers provided each other and specialist staff with live updates, as the 2016 shuttering exercise progressed across Grand Cayman. The Public Works Department (PWD) and the National Roads Authority (NRA) led the operations, held 4 May; these agencies are responsible for preparing public buildings for a threat of a major storm or hurricane.

This was also the first year that the data was shared simultaneously on the Web-EOC, the online platform accessible to senior officials at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC). Web-EOC was also displayed on a live monitor at PWD’s “base station” during the exercise.

More than 200 workers were involved in the preparations. They inspected and shuttered buildings, including 16 hurricane shelters, seven primary schools, post offices and major government centres – some of which also double as hurricane shelters.

“The drills began after 6am, and the work encompassed about 100 facilities,” said Robert Johnson, PWD senior manager, building maintenance. Johnson and executive architect Sean Evans coordinated the exercise.

Evans added that the plan calls for the eventual use of cellphones to communicate data on facilities.

Lead inspectors, representing specialist mechanical, electrical and plumbing, directed each team of workers. Afterwards, their work was scrutinised and verified by final preparedness inspectors.

Items on their staff checklists ranged from closing shutters and examining cisterns, wells and water pumps, to verifying that emergency lights and fire extinguishers were operational.

While drains and deep-wells were checked on the day, in an actual event the workers would also clear the wells in anticipation of flooding. In addition, public areas like beach and park facilities would be secured.

The officials also coordinated shuttering with statutory bodies, such as the Health Services Authority (HSA). “Their teams coordinated checks of district health facilities, while our workers secured the George Town Hospital,” said HSA facilities manager Chris McNamee.

“We paired our annual plans with the national exercise, and PWD sent inspectors in after to confirm our readiness,” he added.

Any deficiencies in the island-wide review have been noted, and outstanding issues will be resolved during the final debrief meeting next week.

This is the 29th year that a pre-storm season dry-run has been conducted on Grand Cayman. In the Sister Islands, the District Administration’s annual hurricane (shuttering) exercise is being held today (6 May).

The 2016 hurricane season begins on 1 June.

For hurricane-preparedness information, contact the PWD at 949-2547. To learn more about national hurricane preparations, visit Hazard Management Cayman Islands’ Cayman Prepared website or call 945-4624

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Category: Technology, Weather

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