MLAs today (Monday 17 October) approved legislative changes ensuring elected governments retain their power even after a state of emergency is declared in the aftermath of a disaster or hazard.
The Disaster Preparedness and Hazard Management Bill, which received approval this morning, joined the growing list of bills heading to Committee Stage in the LA, 22 at last count.
Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin, in opening debate in the LA this morning, reminded legislators of the situation following Hurricane Ivan when the state of emergency was declared and the power was removed from the elected government. He said that experience demonstrated the need to get to a point “where elected members play a proper role in administering and managing” disaster control.
The Bill now gives Cayman’s Hazard Management Department formal recognition and authority to deploy public staff, equipment and vehicles in a disaster.
It also establishes an emergency broadcasting system and broadcasting of emergency notices on local radio stations.
Both East End MLA Arden McLean and Opposition Leader Hon. McKeeva Bush pledged their support for the Bill.
Mr. McLean agreed there is a need for some level of coordination in the aftermath of disasters and advocated for the department to be based at Government Administration Building or in its own building. The department, he said, should have control of the 911 call centre and ambulances.
Cayman should not be complacent, he said, as he urged Government to have mandatory maintenance checks for communication towers and generators written into the legislation.
He also asked that it be included in the bill that all MLAs be notified in an emergency as opposed to only the Premier and Opposition Leader.
Mr. Bush said he had no “grave concerns with the legislation.”