British Virgin Islands

Hurricane Omar Situation Report #3

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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17th October 2008, 1300hrs/1:00 p.m.: A debriefing meeting was held among the Emergency Operations Group to provide an overview of the damage and to receive status reports by the agencies in attendance. Also a discussion of lessons learned and recommendations for improvement was held amongst the group.


Department of Disaster Management

A presentation of photographed images of the observed and reported damage impacts was given by the staff of DDM. The Department of Disaster Management will continue to proceed in accordance with the National Physical Development Plan and follow up on reported impacts and produce an After Action Report which will be submitted to Cabinet within one week. Weather data is only available at this time from two stations on Tortola because the lines connecting those on the Sister Islands are not working. Every effort will be made in the coming days to capture all such data and provide findings in the After Action Report.

Water and Sewerage Department

The services are all back online. There is an issue with a 4-inch line in Duffs Bottom that broke and affected three homes. The remedy to this issue is complex, but, is going to be addressed. As far as the response during the event; the Water and Sewerage Department recently revised their Disaster Plan and were able to follow it accordingly and therefore were well prepared prior to the predicted impact of Hurricane Omar. Generators were previously filled and were used to provide water in areas that did not have electricity. There is not a generator for the Sea Cow's Bay plant. Reservoirs were filled in order to supply water for a 24 hour period if needed. There was a pre-existing issue with the reservoirs in East End and Duffs Bottom, but they have both been repaired at this time.

Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service

Eight calls were reported, there were no traffic incidents. There were two emergency calls, one in Virgin Gorda, one fire in Major Bay. Officers were pre-positioned and ready to respond to search and rescue situations and assistance with fallen trees around homes. Due to the advance communication from the Department of Disaster Management the Fire service had enough time to be well prepared prior to the event.

Royal Virgin Islands Police Force

There were no major incidents reported during the event. Communications with the DDM prior to the event enabled positioning of officers to ensure the flow of traffic; and all systems were in place to respond to any major incidents in the event of major impact.

Environmental Health

Vector control officers are currently treating large water bodies. Any spoiled food stocks with restaurants and grocery stores are being investigated. Aerial fogging will commence once weather conditions improve.

Tourist Board

Currently, the Emergency Officer position is vacant. Because of the Inter-line Regatta, a number of mariners had to be accommodated in land based accommodations because the main charter company, The Moorings did not enact their Hurricane Plan as required. In addition, securing of boats did not occur until a very late hour prior to the event.

Red Cross

The headquarters were opened 24 hours, 25 volunteers were present for the event and two volunteers were sent to each opened shelter to provide medical support to shelter managers. At the time of generating this report, all shelters have been closed.

BVI Health Services Authority

The hospital remained open throughout the event and there was increased staff in the emergency unit. All critical staff remained on the premises for the duration of the event, and all nonessential staff was released. There were no emergencies reported due to the event.

The warehouse at Long Bush used by Community Health Services experienced flooding.

BVI Airports Authority

The airport is functioning at full operation. Currently, there are no flights to Antigua as VC Bird International Airport remains closed. The airport was closed 4 hours before tropical storm impact in accordance with disaster plan operations. There were 125 persons that needed accommodations due to the closing of the airport. This issue was remedied with the assistance of Tourist Board and DDM. There was minor flooding reported in the terminal.

Town and Country Planning

Town and Country is a coordinating agency versus a response agency. However, the issues related to Development Planning that resulted from the reported impacts will be addressed within the Department and the Planning Authority. Town and Country Planning also assisted in the response to relieve the flooding situation in Josiah's Bay.

Public Works Department

Main roads were cleared by 16 October 2008, 1600hrs/4:00 p.m with the exception of Brewer's Bay and Windy Hill. PWD resources were utilized as well as some private contractors. The flooding issues in the Purcell area and Road Town were not as severe as experienced previously. This indicated that the drainage projects recently completed prevented major flooding. A =BC of the road in the Windy Hill area was washed out despite three walls that were constructed after the 2003 floods. This road was built on fill material and was washed out during this event. Barricades and cones were erected to alert the public of the undermined road; this issue will be addressed. Regarding the collapse of the rock wall in East End; the PWD made the owners aware of the danger of constructing this type of wall prior to this event. Efforts will be coordinated with the Town and Country Planning Department to continue to strengthen the regulations and enforcement of building regulations. The collapse of the reinforced steel at Shepards Hill was unfortunate as efforts were in progress to construct the retaining wall, but collapse of the surrounding boulders prevented completion of the wall. Currently, PWD is addressing issues in Brewer's Bay due to landslides in the area.

Government Information Services

Mrs. Geraldine Ritter-Freeman, Chief Information Officer, will contact the media to assess the level of information that was disseminated to the public and to determine its effectiveness.

BVI Electricity

The damage reported include 5 electricity poles in Road Town and 1 in Virgin Gorda were down. The underground Wickhams Cay feeder project provided improved services to the Road Town area. Currently, 90% of the territory has been restored with the anticipation of 99% by the end of the working day.

Department of Agriculture

Assessments have commenced but were not completed in time to provide information to be included in this report.

Reports from Sister Islands Coordinator

No damage was reported to the Administrations Buildings on Anegada and Jost Van Dyke. On Virgin Gorda, the Vanterpool Building lost an external window and had minor flooding on the first floor. The building floors are vulnerable to flooding. The satellite phone in the district office needs to be assessed as it appeared to not be working. NB: This report was submitted by fax from the SIC to the DG. The DDM can confirm that the satellite phones were tested and functioned well when Mr. Wheatley was in office. DDM was unable to verify a test with the SIC prior to the storms impact.

The SIC expressed his concerns regarding the use of the JVD Primary School as a shelter because of the drainage problems around the building and the absence of internal bathrooms. There was an expectation by ten residents that shelter accommodations would be made available. However, due to the flooding issues this was not possible and so the District Officer made efforts to find host families to house these persons.


a) Prompt clearance of debris and fallen material on major roads allowed for immediate access by response agencies and the public;

b) Drainage projects that were recently implemented worked well, for example Crab Lot and Purcell;

c) Emergency Contingency Funding needs to be made available to agencies that may be responsible for providing immediate relief needs. For example, if we were faced with the 125 tourist that was initially expected; they would have to be fed and accommodated at emergency shelters;

d) Persons who are in the practice of using galvanized fencing should be discouraged;

e) The powers of the Hazard Inspectors available under the Disaster Management Act should be increased to allow for assessments to take place pre-hazard impact;

f) Strengthening of building regulations and enforcement is necessary to prevent future incidents from inadequate building practices. For example, the failure of the rock wall surrounding the home of Ashford Frett at Thomas landing should be prevented in the future and the significant sedimentation from the Little Bay Development;

g) All construction sites should be required to have Preparation Plans designed for Hazard Impact. The hospital storage site is an example of a construction site that did not have proper preparation. A Disaster Management Plan is still outstanding from the construction company working on the hospital;

h) The timing when the initial order for the closure of all Government Offices may have been too late to allow for proper planning of shelter opening by volunteers, the use of the hazard inspectors, access to banks, and supermarkets;

i) Although the traffic flow was not as difficult as experienced in previous events; the closure of offices needs to be enforced by a certain time to allow for adequate implementation of traffic evacuation for Road Town;

j) The reconnaissance flight provided by the RFA Wave Runner allowed for a rapid and thorough damage assessment and such services should be made available for future events. In addition, the United Nations can offer assistance to provide spaced based data and analysis after an event, but arrangement to use this service must be pre-established;

k) The command center at the Public Works Department has been effective over the years and therefore should be afforded the same back up services for telephone and internet as the other emergency response agencies;

l) Constant information flow to the public and emergency services was maintained and allowed for a better understanding of the progress of the weather system and the efforts being taken by government. Regional agencies commented on the effectiveness of the situation reports that were available through the DDM Website. In particular the speed at which the damage was surveyed and the time in which services were restored. This clearly indicated to the regional and international world that the Territory was establishing a level of normal operation;

m) Request for sand bags were constant to the DDM and therefore provisions may have to be made for ensuring that sand bags are available at local suppliers in sufficient quantities.;

n) There is need for urgent improvements to the Emergency Operations Building to provide for a safer structure with adequate space and technology for emergency operations both short and long term;

o) Some measures need to be implemented to deter persons from remaining on the streets after warnings have been issued and to prevent them from obstructing response agencies during and after impact. Defining a time when all persons should be off the street prior to impact appeared to have worked well, however there was still the concern that too many persons accessed the roadways when emergency response agencies were trying to restore services;

p) Increased efforts should be made by agencies to provide sufficient warning time for the closure for all sea and airport facilities;

q) Discussions between large marinas, the Tourist Board, and DDM should take place once again to ensure the presence and enactment of plans and for handling evacuation and safe accommodations for tourists;

r) Regular maintenance of shelters is important and will help to address issues such as leaks and flooding that occurred at some of the primary shelters. In addition to this, it may be necessary to ensure that police have access to primary shelters located on Sister Islands. The drainage issues at Jost Van Dyke Primary School and the St. Ursula Community Center need to be addressed urgently.