PHILIPSBURG–Business associations/organizations are to receive a limited number of hurricane mobility passes for selected association members to check the status of businesses, in general, after a storm or hurricane passes the local area, but a curfew is still in effect.
The issuance of the limited mobility passes was the major outcome of a recent business sector meeting coordinated by St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI). The associations are to provide all information to COCI by May 25, of their selected representative/s to access a pass. That information will be passed to the Fire Department/Office of Disaster Management for pass preparation.
Present for the meeting were representatives of the Indian Merchants Association (IMA), the Chinese Business Community Association, St. Maarten Bankers Association, St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), Philipsburg Promotional Board, St. Maarten Tourism Authority and Fire Department.
COCI board president Stanley Lint was also present for the meeting.
The possibility of introducing colour-coded hurricane mobility passes was also discussed but will be followed up on with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at a later date.
A zero-tolerance approach to looting and the visibility of police and the marines before a hurricane strikes were also a topic in the meeting.
COCI Executive Director Anastacio “Stacio” Baker said the business community wants to see proper security in place before the arrival and after the passing of a storm/hurricane. “Business people are then assured that their business and inventory are safe and secure. We cannot afford a repeat of what transpired after the passing of [Hurricane – Ed.] Irma.”
The Police also contributed to the meeting by sending information relevant to the discussion.
The business sector was informed by the Fire Department that the first 48 hours after the passing of a storm/hurricane are critical for the emergency services and first responders to react to emergency calls and clear debris obstructing the roads.
Fire Chief Clive Richardson said minimum congestion of the road network is necessary to execute a quick clean-up and for quick recover to get back to business.
A preliminary survey carried out among the COCI membership in late 2017 found a number of concerns about the hurricane mobility pass system.
The business community wants clearer instructions from disaster management officials, especially when hurricane watches and warning notices are issued. “Not all businesses need to be open after a hurricane passes. This creates more congestion on the public road. Everybody’s cooperation is needed in order for our country to have a quick recovery and to resume regular economic activities,” Baker said.
Baker called on other sectors, such as the construction sector, to get organized into associations or existing associations to reboot their efforts. Associations are important platforms for dialogue on issues of national importance to be dealt with in a collective manner, he said.