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Hazard Mitigation and Resilience Plan Open for Public Review

The University of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Green Technology Center has worked since 2020 with the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management agency and FEMA’s Office of Disaster Recovery developing the plan.

(TNS) - Residents have an opportunity to learn more about hazard mitigation within the territory, with the release of a new USVI Hazard Mitigation and Resilience Plan.

The document, presented to the St. John community during a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the Nazareth Evangelical Lutheran Church, is now available for public review.

Every five years every U.S. state and territory has to publish an updated hazard mitigation plan to address how they will respond and rebuild from hazard events.

Since 2020, the University of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Green Technology Center has worked with the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, V.I. Office of Disaster Recovery and V.I. EPSCOR to develop the plan.

They gathered statistics looking at the risk of hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, wildfires, and manmade hazards throughout the territory.

For example, St. Thomas and St. John are at risk of experiencing high hurricane winds due to the islands' topography.

"If you feel a Category 4 wind speed along the coast, if you are higher you will probably feel a Category 5 wind speed," Gregory Guannel, CGTC director, said during the meeting.

He noted that more than 50 percent of homes on St. Thomas and St. John would experience Category 5 conditions during a Category 4 storm, with 16% of commercial buildings and 56 percent of hotels on St. John experiencing the Category 5 conditions.

St. John homes are also at risk to earthquakes, as more than 60 percent of homes on St. Thomas and St. John are in the highest shake region.

Guannel said houses built on stilts are at risk of being damaged in an earthquake or during a landslide.

V.I. ESPCOR Director Kim Waddell noted that this plan is different from previous hazard mitigation plans because it incorporates resilience, which addresses underlying conditions that make a community and its systems unable to rebound following a disaster.

The current state of critical infrastructure and essential services, such as water, energy, transportation, telecommunications and education are analyzed in the plan.

For example, Guannel said that according to a Pavement Surface Index assessment on St. John roads, 42 percent of roads on the island are under a 3.5 rating. This means the roads are in poor condition and are in need of repair.

Bad road conditions also cause additional wear and tear on vehicles, costing St. Johnians an additional $255,378 based on miles traveled on poorly maintained roads.

In the case of a natural disaster, transportation disruptions such as road closures, can impact the response time and access to emergency services.

Guannel said St. John is particularly vulnerable in a hazardous situation due to its limited transportation options.

"One of the biggest challenges is you don't have the airport or hospital, if you need to get out of the territory for an emergency you have to take a boat, or helicopter for Medevac," Guannel said.

Another challenge for St. John is that the island is one of the least covered when it comes to cell phone service.

VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen noted that another telecommunication technology is FirstNet, a nationwide first responder network sponsored by AT&T.

The V.I. Bureau of Information Technology and Liberty oversee FirstNet in the territory, and can be added to a cell phone plan for an additional fee.

A key takeaway from the plan is efficient operations lead to more resilient systems and faster recovery.

Guannel said there are a variety of broad recommendations for projects that can improve the territory's infrastructure and essential services to help manage risk, improve systems and practice governance.

The next town hall meetings will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, at the AAS UVI Medical Simulation Center on St. Croix, and Thursday, May 16, at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Parish Hall on St. Thomas.

For the next 30 days VITEMA will be accepting formal comments to be reviewed and incorporated into the document.

To view the plan online and to leave a comment visit and for questions email


©2024 The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.