Businesses who fail to comply with warnings from the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) about closure could have authorities take action against them under a new Disaster Management Act which is being considered by Legislators.
Officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about the lack of cooperation from the private sector in the national emergency planning exercises, and businesses, mostly shops and supermarkets, who refuse to close when instructed to do so during disaster warnings.
"There are language and appropriate provisions that have been included in the new Disaster Management Act which is before the House and so I hope that can be resolved soon and we can take such measures if we need to...For example, allow us to take action against shop owners who ignore advice to close," Governor Boyd McCleary told a press conference yesterday, August 22 ahead of the passage of Tropical Storm Issac.
At the press conference, the Governor noted that the DDM was in touch with the businesses and the expectation was that the heavy winds and squalls would not have hit the Territory until late last evening, so businesses which remained opened early evening would not have been a problem. However, the Governor advised all businesses to close by 9:00 pm last evening.
Earlier this year, both Governor McCleary and Premier Dr. D. Orlando Smith expressed concerns about the lack of involvement of private sector organisations in the Territory's emergency exercises. In a joint statement issued following the Lantex 2012 annual tsunami exercise on March 28, both leaders called on the private sector do more.
The exercise gave the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) the opportunity to execute their annual full scale tsunami exercise to test the Territory's Early Warning and Notification Systems and to afford organizations and Government departments the opportunity to test their own plans and procedures.
Since 2009, these annual exercises have been taking place during the month of March and are held in conjunction with other localities in the Northwest Atlantic.
"We were particularly pleased to see the involvement of many Government Departments as well as Sunsail, Foot Loose and The Moorings in the recent exercise. But we continue to be concerned about the lack of participation in annual exercises by Private Sector organizations, particularly given the low level of preparedness that exists within this sector," the joint statement noted.