On Friday, July 5th Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin hosted the 2nd Disaster Preparedness Conference with the theme “Communication is Critical”. The Disaster Preparedness Conference is a meeting of the Government internal Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) that make up the Disaster Management Organization (EOC) along with key external stakeholders that assist the Emergency Operation Center during a disaster.
During the Disaster Preparedness Conference, attendees were able to hear from presenters who highlighted the importance of effective communication pre and post a disaster. The presentations covered regional and international experiences, available local mechanisms and plans to reach the local and international community and the establishment of internal organizational structures that will cater to the specific information management needs of the Emergency Operation Center.
While addressing those gathered at the conference Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin remarked, “Communication in disaster management requires the active participation by relevant agencies as well as a keen understanding of the message by all parties. We must speak a clear understandable language especially when it comes to saving lives. Essentially, we must be able to analyze and transmit critical information in such a way that persons understand the information and take the necessary expected actions. In addition, we must do so according to clear communication protocols and guidelines. We have the opportunity to make this our new norm, this is very important for the safety of not only our citizens but also to those first responders who risk their lives to safeguard and protect the people of Sint Maarten.”
Keynote Speaker Sharleen Dabreo, Director of BVI Department of Disaster Management in her remarks reflected on the many similarities that Tortola faced and continue to face following the passing of Hurricane Irma and Maria in September 2017. For example, the BVI was without communication right after the hurricane, government buildings and key economic infrastructure suffered major damages; many international NGO’s flocked to the island in the aftermath of the disaster and similar to Sint Maarten their recovery is also progressing rather slowly.
Ms. Dabreo highlighted the struggle BVI has undertaken to develop a more resilient disaster management structure and has offered to assist Sint Maarten wherever possible in order to strengthen our Disaster Management Organization through the sharing of best practices based on our common experiences.
The Disaster Preparedness Conference concluded with the launch of Sint Maarten’s own “Disaster Prep Sint Maarten” app.
The newly launched app, which is available on Google Play Store, is designed to provide pertinent information on disaster preparedness, give regular updates and alerts on emergencies that are taking place on the island.
Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin stated that the disaster app is an addition to the present official communication network of the Government of Sint Maarten that includes the Government Information Page, www.sintmaartengov.org, Facebook page SXMGOV, Government of Sint Maarten YouTube Channel and SXMGOV Radio 107.9 FM.