The BVI is exposed to both natural and manmade hazards. Hurricanes and earthquakes are the natural hazards that are considered to be the greatest threat. The effects of hurricanes and tropical storms such as wind damage, inland flooding and coastal surge are of significant concern. Hurricane Hugo severely affected the BVI in September 1989. Losses were estimated to be US$40 million and 30% of the country’s housing stock was destroyed.
Seismic research indicates that the northeastern Caribbean has the potential to experience an earthquake of between 7.5 to 8.5 magnitudes. Earthquakes of this magnitude occurred during the 19th century. More recently, the Leeward Islands experienced an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude on 8th October 1974.
The islands are also prone to manmade hazards such as exposure to hazardous chemicals, explosions and transportation accidents. Oil spills are considered to be the greatest manmade threat to BVI.
Some of the major hurricanes of the last two decades were Klaus in 1984, which was highly destructive with damages of over $150 million, Hugo in 1989 and Louis and Marilyn in 1995. The latter three were all category 4 hurricanes. In 1999, hurricane Lenny was especially destructive and was subsequently followed by an assessment report focusing on lessons learned and recommendations on topics such as safe construction.
Under the component of mitigation and planning, assessments of various hazards are made to provide the public sector with the ability to develop appropriate mitigation strategies.
The National Emergency Advisory Council (NDMC) is the policy-making body for disaster management in the BVI. It is chaired by the Deputy Governor and is composed of heads of government organisations, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and professional and technical officers. The council normally meets once per year and its main responsibility is the review and monitoring of the national strategy for dealing with disasters. It has thematic standing subcommittees on emergency operations and telecommunications, public education, transport and logistics, health disasters, welfare and food distribution, damage assessment and mitigation, administration and finance, and marine pollution. A director heads the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), who in turn reports directly to the Deputy Governor. This disaster management department administers the components of the Disaster Management Program, which consists of mitigation and planning, training and research, community preparedness, public information, emergency telecommunications and recovery coordination.