PHILIPSBURG–The Government of St. Maarten is not sufficiently prepared for the effective prevention of major consequences a hurricane may have on the public of St. Maarten, and to deal with this in the aftermath of a possible disaster.
This is the conclusion the Ombudsman made after completing a Systemic Investigation on the country’s disaster management plan.
The Ombudsman concluded in her final report that “notwithstanding the enormous activities engaged by government in the aftermath of the hurricanes, the structural absence of vital documents … seriously impeded the state of readiness of the country in the midst of the hurricane season 2018.”
The vital documents to which she referred include sub and action plans to be provided by the various Emergency Support Function (ESF) groups, as well as external conditions such as the procedural rules to access the aid made available by the Netherlands through the Trust Fund.
“Government is not sufficiently prepared for the effective prevention of major consequences a hurricane may have on the public of St. Maarten, and to deal with same in the aftermath of a possible disaster,” the Ombudsman said in a press release on Friday.
Based on these matters, the Ombudsman recommended that government prepare a comprehensive contingency plan for immediate implementation, describing real-time actions in case of a hurricane, including collaboration with the Collectivité of French St. Martin.
In addition to the plan of action, government should also prepare a scenario of approach, describing detailed executable actions (identifying persons, required tools, etc.) required to actually realise the plans, including a checklist.
Government was also advised to engage in a public campaign to encourage residents to assume responsibility for the protection of private property by taking steps to repair homes and businesses to safeguard the wellbeing of the surroundings.
Other recommendations include providing a solution for abandoned properties that present a possible hazard for their surroundings and consider having structured and guided recycling of dumped material as a result of (a) Hurricane Irma and distribute this as aid in the most vulnerable areas. Government was also advised to identify, prepare and publish the locations of all available shelters early and have them properly equipped to serve the communities.
The Ombudsman recently concluded her investigation, initiated after the hurricanes of September 2017, regarding government’s state of preparedness pursuant to the National Ordinance on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Disaster Management Plan for the 2018 hurricane season and lessons learned.
After providing a preliminary findings report, the final report was submitted to Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin on August 7. The prime minister is in charge of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The final report is available for download via the website
www.ombudsmansxm.com under the “Articles and Presentations” tab.