In the past few weeks, senior leaders from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have met to discuss preparations for the upcoming hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
“As hurricane season looms, it is critical that we continue working with our federal partners to prepare for a coordinated response to help Virgin Islanders when they need it,” said VITEMA Director-nominee Daryl D. Jaschen. “Less than two weeks ago, we saw the first named storm of the season, which highlights the fact that disasters don’t respect the calendar. We must continue to work together to prepare Virgin Islanders for all kinds of disasters.”
From the lessons learned during the 2017 hurricane season, VITEMA and FEMA are currently working to assess and support the territory’s ability to respond to a wide-range of disasters that may impact the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island. These discussions included emergency communications, including public alert and notification, island threat assessments, the disaster declaration process, pre-staging commodities both within the USVI and outside the territory to replenish once supplies are used, and scheduling exercises to enhance the coordination of the territory and FEMA during a disaster response.
“Helping people before, during and after disasters is our core mission at FEMA,” said Jacqueline Heyliger, FEMA recovery director in the U.S.V.I. “By working with the territory through VITEMA, we are focused on recovery from Irma and Maria while at the same time preparing Virgin Islanders to respond and recover from any disaster that may impact the islands.”
Following the meeting, the participants committed to a series of exercises to practice VITEMA and FEMA integration during the activations of Emergency Operations Centers.