PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Following the workshops held in May and June 2018 for the Emergency Support Functions ‘Evacuation, Shelters, Relief & Mass Care’ (ESF 7), Dutch Disaster Management experts Suzanne Robijn and Viola van Baardwijk of VNG International held a table-top exercise on Tuesday October 16th, 2018. The chosen scenario for the exercise was an earthquake followed by a tsunami. They were supported by professor Zoran Vojinovic of IHE Delft, an international research and education institute on water management.
The goal of the table-top exercise was to get the Disaster Plan for ESF7, developed by the Dutch experts of VNG International, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of St Maarten, finalized. During the table-top exercise the plan, including the new Emergency Management Structure and the task charts, was tested.
Zoran Vojinovich showed with simulation models what impact the scenarios had on the island. A Tsunami Alert gave the participants the opportunity to prepare for Evacuation, Sheltering and Distribution of food and water. In the second phase of the exercise the Tsunami hit the island and devastated 50% of the infrastructure and multiple casualties. The participants dealt with many challenges and tried to help out as many people as possible.
All the participants showed involvement, commitment, strength and knowledge of their tasks.
Choosing a different kind of risk by working out a scenario of a tsunami made everyone realize that the current draft of the Disaster Plan should contain the possibilities of handling different kinds of scenarios, instead of mainly focussing on hurricanes.
The next step will be to finalize and formalize the Disaster Plan. In November, 2018 there will be an extended exercise with multiple ESF’s. The Disaster Plan for ESF 7 should by then be ready to work with.