DDM runs first ever cruise disaster simulation exercise
The Exercise, code named "Operation: Tropic Hit", surrounded the scenario of a cruise vessel in distress with over one hundred passengers on board that were sick and injured and needed to disembark the vessel for further evaluation or treatment. Causality was also included.
According to a press release from Government Information Service (GIS), the scenario tested the recently drafted procedures for managing cruise disasters and evaluated the Territory's emergency response and interagency communication in response to such a disaster.
“Consultant Mr. Paul Saunders, a Disaster Risk Management Specialist at DHP Caribbean Ltd. in Trinidad and Tobago, facilitated the exercise which also served to examine the use of the incident command system, local support available to impacted vessels, border control, managing environmental impacts, communication, handling the media and management of external assistance,” it stated.
The release added that prior to the exercise, Mr. Saunders had said “this exercise will not only further train the emergency responders and test their plans, but will serve to bring greater awareness to the marine community towards the need for developing and testing their emergency plans as well.” He continued by saying, ”This exercise is part of an initiative to ensure that adequate plans and procedures are in place to address all possible hazards that can impact the Territory and that the critical resources are available to ensure that there is a good response.”
Among the evaluators and numerous participants were two (2) overseas observers. Superintendent Elliott Forbes of the Royal Anguilla Police Force and Ms. Melissa Meade, Director of Anguilla’s Department of Disaster Management who observed the entire exercise with the intention of conducting a similar exercise in Anguilla during the coming months.
In her comments about the exercise Ms. Meade stated, “After witnessing this exercise, I am now very excited to go back to Anguilla and to ensure that the appropriate procedures and guidelines involving pleasure yachts and large scale passenger marine vessels transiting our waters are developed and implemented. We too have identified that we may not be able to prevent an incident from occurring but with combined efforts and a high level of preparedness will aid in averting a catastrophe.”
After the simulation exercise, a debriefing was held at the conference room at the DDM between all agencies that participated for further evaluation and discussion.
Some forty (40) persons served as volunteers for the exercise including teenagers, adults, and persons speaking more than one language. Each volunteer was given a role to dramatize during the exercise which they all agreed was a “very good” exercise. During a post-mortem exercise, volunteers were given the opportunity to discuss with the coordinators their observations and even made recommendations.
This exercise came out of a project in 2012 which developed standardised procedures and guidelines for managing incidents involving large marine vessels. Funding for its development came from the Comprehensive Disaster Management Harmonization Implementation (CDM HIP) Programme which is implemented by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA) and various donor partners including UKAID from the Department of International Development; and financial support for the exercise was provided for under the Government of Italy’s “Enhancing Resilience to Reduce Vulnerability in the Caribbean Region” project.
It was also said that the need for the Virgin Islands to be well prepared to respond to incidents regarding cruise disasters stemmed from the sinking of the Costa Concordia off Tuscany, Italy on January 13, 2012.