A COCI staff member preparing a storm-ready go bag for the staff of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
PHILIPSBURG–The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) on Sunday urged the business community to be ready as the country is now in the peak period of the hurricane season.
The three main areas for the St. Maarten business community are that businesses are prepared and able to secure their facilities; that law enforcement has a plan in place for pre-arrival of a storm; and post-hurricane strike security plans are in place to protect the fragile economic engine of the national economy and businesses are able to re-open and provide services and products, thereby bringing a semblance of normalcy to the community/customers and visitors to the island – business continuity.
COCI called on employees of businesses as well as business owners to work together in reviewing preparations for the season and to make sure they are ready.
COCI said Hurricane Dorian is a stark reminder of what a bad hurricane season looks like, especially when viewing the catastrophic damage the northern islands of the Bahamas have experienced with the passing of Category-5 Dorian a week ago. Dorian passed through the southern Leeward Islands within the past two weeks as a tropical storm, bringing rain to the country before heading towards the Bahamas.
The Chamber’s Supervisory and Managing Boards expressed “heartfelt sympathy” to the people, government and business community of the Bahamas, following the loss of life and devastation left behind by Dorian on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahamas. “We extend our solidarity with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation.”
Hurricanes generate a series of threats to lives and property. The most obvious is the threat posed to buildings, equipment and people due to high winds and storm surge. COCI says the business community must be storm-ready for the peak period of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season.
COCI shared a checklist that it said would help each business prepare for the effects of a hurricane. The checklist covers what key actions should be taken before and following the passing of the event:
Before and during the storm
Stay up-to-date on the storm’s progress via radio and Internet; review your shelter-in-place plan, making sure your disaster kit if fully stocked (flashlight, batteries, etc.); back-up all data on servers and personal computers at your business; place electronic devices in a safe, secure area off the floor; secure physical files; devise a communication protocol where the business manager can keep in contact with employees (cell phone emergency list); turn off all non-critical devices and other non-essential electrical equipment at your business; make sure drains and gutters are cleared; install shutters/plywood over windows and doors; secure all loose debris and other items outside around your business establishment; make sure generators are filled with fuel; shut off gas lines and secure gas bottles; call the water truck company to fill back-up tank; clean and sterilize water containers; fuel up company vehicles; review company insurance plans and make sure they have been updated; and have emergency cash on hand, as ATM machines and banks will be closed until the all-clear has been given by the authorities.
Stay indoors and this would ensure that your family, your employees and their families are all safe. Monitor storm reports as the system passes the area. Stay on the downwind side of the house, away from windows and doors, even if they are shuttered. Close all inside doors. If the wind gets inside, closed doors will stop it from entering other rooms. Do not go outside while the eye of the storm – an area of calm weather at the centre of the storm – is passing. The calm eye can last for up to half an hour or more, and winds will return unexpectedly from the opposite direction, sometimes with greater force.
After the storm
Stay indoors until the authorities declare the storm is over. Most times, a curfew is issued before the passing of the hurricane. You should not venture out and remain within your home/yard. Do not touch loose or damaged wires or anything that is touching them. Do not step in pools of water where wires could be grounded. Avoid trees, signs, buildings and other structures that appear damaged. Do not go sightseeing, as you may hinder emergency rescue work or road clearance being carried out by the authorities. Open windows and doors for ventilation and to dry your home/business to prevent mould.