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HomeNewsArchivesAbsent Agencies Drop St. John Storm Readiness

Absent Agencies Drop St. John Storm Readiness

June 9, 2009 — Alvis Christian, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency deputy director on St. John, gave the island a C-plus for readiness Tuesday after representatives from key agencies failed to show up for a meeting.
Come mid-August, when hurricanes start barreling across the Atlantic Ocean toward the Virgin Island, he said he expects the island to improve to a B grade.
"I want to hear from those agencies that weren't here," he said after the meeting at the VITEMA office in Susannaberg, where Christian got hurricane season updates from about a dozen local departments.
Among those missing from the meeting were V.I. Fire Services, the V.I. Water and Power Authority, the V.I. National Park, St. John Rescue, the American Red Cross, and the island's hotels.
He advised those at the meeting to make sure houses and families are prepared for a storm so they can then focus on running their departments under hurricane conditions.
"Our problem is always manpower," Police Ofc. Avril Jennings said, adding that otherwise the department was prepared.
Deputy Public Works Director Ira Wade pointed out that he needs a heavy equipment and truck driver, but since it's unlikely those jobs will be filled, his department will do what it takes to clear the roads after a hurricane hits.
"The work will get done," he said.
Wade plans to distribute bags and sand to the island's two fire stations, where residents can pick up the bags and fill them with the available sand. As for seniors, Wade said his crews will make sure they get sandbags.
Christian said after the meeting that he hopes that all tourists will evacuate should a storm be headed toward the Virgin Islands. He said they can't wait until the last minute to leave because he needs to make sure there's a ferry to St. Thomas operating. Additionally, he said the airport must still be open and the planes flying so they can depart St. Thomas.
In addition to working with the hotels, Christian said he plans to meet with the St. John Accommodations Council, whose members manage the island's substantial number of vacation villas, to make sure they're aware of the need to get the tourists off St. John.
Department representatives crowded into the VTIEMA office for the meeting because the conference room was otherwise occupied. Crews were busy setting up an electronic system to link VITEMA offices on all three islands.
"We'll have real time information," Homeland Security Planner Noel Smith said.
He expects to have St. John's VITEMA office linked to Homeland Security on St. Thomas by the end of the week, but said that it will be next hurricane season before St. Thomas and St. Croix are online. Smith said those offices are currently in the midst of major renovations.
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