JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Jamaica’s ability to effectively communicate during a maritime or aviation emergency was tested in an islandwide simulation exercise held earlier this month.
  • A team of US Coast Guard MRO specialists carried out aviation and cruise ship simulated scenarios in the marine environment.
  • The MRO Specialist said the simulation looked at the actual process of notification.

Jamaica’s ability to effectively communicate during a maritime or aviation emergency was tested in an islandwide simulation exercise held earlier this month.

The five-day exercise, conducted simultaneously in Port Antonio and Ocho Rios, was led by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in collaboration with the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ).

It involved several local and overseas stakeholder partners including the United States (US) Coast Guard.

The focus of the activity was to assess the communication aspect of the Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) contingency plan, which was developed to respond to a major passenger ship and aviation incident in Jamaica’s marine space and Flight Information Region (FIR).

Director General of the MAJ, Rear Admiral (Ret.) Peter Brady, told JIS News that the plan was developed over the last two years through support from its overseas partners.

“So, we decided to have a communications exercise to test it. Basically, the exercise tests the island’s ability to notify people, validate resources and to reverse communicate with the National Emergency Operations Centre command post at ODPEM,” he told JIS News.

The mass rescue plan addresses response at three tiers. Tier one entails the local or parish level, where the parish committees react; tier two is response at the national level; and tier three is international-level response.

During the simulation, each participating seaport or airport was required to report on facilities and resources available to support MRO.

A team of US Coast Guard MRO specialists carried out aviation and cruise ship simulated scenarios in the marine environment.

In addition to testing and updating the MRO contingency plan, the country also benefited from assistance in developing and formalising the protocols for requesting international resources.

Rear Admiral Brady told JIS News that the simulation exercise was “quite useful” as it revealed areas of weakness.

“It turned up quite a few gaps. One of the reasons you do an exercise is not only to familiarise people with what they have to do but you also get to determine where gaps are in your plan. You also expose people to high-level stress operations,” he pointed out.

At the conclusion of the exercise, a general debriefing was carried out to examine all the operational areas.

“We will obviously tweak the plan using all of the revelations that have come out, all of the gaps that we have seen. Structural deficiencies, which are coming out in the exercise, will also be addressed,” Rear Admiral Brady said.

MRO specialist with the 7th Coast Guard District of the US Coast Guard, Paul Culver, told JIS News that he assisted with the development of the mass rescue plan.

He noted that several activities have taken place including a workshop and a functional “tabletop” exercise with the cruise industry and ports.

The MRO Specialist said the simulation looked at the actual process of notification.

“If it didn’t happen (according to plan), we ask the question where the breakdown in communications was, then we document that so we can improve the plan,” he told JIS News.

Other stakeholder agencies involved in the simulation were Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Ministry of Health, Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Parish Disaster Committees and other agencies.

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