Last week, the Government of the Virgin Islands as well as its agencies and federal partners from across the country gathered in the U.S. Virgin Islands to finalize preparation efforts in advance of hurricane season. In a simulation of real-life hurricane response, participants worked from Emergency Operations Centers on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) facilities in the territory while practicing their ability to work together over a large area with degraded communications.
“For over two years, we’ve had lots of practice working with the federal government to beat COVID-19, and we know that practice will make our response better if a hurricane brings its winds and rains to our shores,” said Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. “Last week, GVI, led by VITEMA, worked together with FEMA to conduct multiple exercises to test and practice our hurricane response plans, and I have been briefed on their plans for the season. While we always have more work to do, I’m confident we are moving the territory in the right direction.”
“FEMA is committed to helping Virgin Islanders before, during and after a disaster,” said Mark A. Walters, FEMA’s VI Caribbean Area Office coordinator. “A partnership with a focus on year-round planning with real-time response exercises puts the federal government and the territory in a position to respond to hurricanes that approach the U.S. Virgin Islands. FEMA is ready to support the U.S. Virgin Islands with requests to support the territory with its response to storms and all hazards.”
“For the past six months, we have worked closely with USVI territorial agencies and our FEMA partners to get the territory ready for hurricane season,” said Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director Daryl Jaschen. “As Director of VITEMA, my goal is to continue to build on our successes and identify opportunities to improve.
“As we continue to prepare, VITEMA reminds the Virgin Islands community to ‘Be Prepared, to Stay Informed and Be Vigilant.” VITEMA knows that the USVI community understands the importance of preparedness and moving forward, we will use new and innovative ideas to keep our community engaged and strengthen our core capabilities.”
This weeklong series of exercises is the capstone event of a nearly six month-long planning effort to prepare for the 2022 hurricane season. Preparedness is an ongoing process, and last week’s event provided opportunities to integrate lessons learned from the Irma/Maria response efforts, address gaps with territorial or local resources and then identify federal resources necessary to respond to destructive storms in the territory.
Topics covered during the event included food/water distribution, patient movement, route clearance, debris removal, temporary power and power restoration, emergency responder communications as well as public information and warning.
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