Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria – flexible, responsive skills and expertise

Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria_

Project: Rapid response after hurricanes
Customer: FCO Posts
Location: Caribbean

In September 2017 we gave extensive support and assistance to Caribbean islands in response to the longest-lasting category five storm ever recorded. Sustained wind speeds of 185mph and rainfall of 274mm per hour devastated the Caribbean Islands of Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos.

More than 500,000 British people were affected by the worst hurricane to hit the Caribbean in 50 years. The FCO led the UK Government’s response and we were on hand to get this assistance up and running.

The team from FCO Services worked every hour there was with great humour and determination to get a difficult job done.

Governor of Anguilla

Our multi-skilled Regional Technical Support Services (RTSS) and Technical Works teams restored essential infrastructure. This included power and IT and telephony connectivity to severely damaged buildings providing a safe working environment even within a crisis situation. Concerns that wiring damage had compromised building safety led to our specialists providing appropriate assessments for the FCO’s offices on the islands, enabling the Governors to operate with confidence.

Using Bridgetown as a local base, we coordinated deployment of resources that ensured staff operated in a safe environment and put measures in place to ensure their protection.

These included:

  • in the British Virgin Islands, our Technical Works Officers (TWO) restoring IT and telephony connectivity and providing satellite phones to restore capability
  • vital generator repair and maintenance equipment to keep a failing power supply running
  • re-establishing the IT network connection in Anguilla.
  • deploying our Secure Technical Services Officer to Miami to restore IT connection and telephony services

In all, 42 FCO Services staff were involved across the whole crisis response effort, contributing in the London crisis centre, helping with the relief effort in the local community, inspecting and making local infrastructure buildings such as hospitals safe, and providing practical skills support in restoring power, water and communications.

Crisis management was coordinated between our office in London and regional base in Washington to help ensure the right resources were deployed to the region in the right timescales. This demanded flexibility, expertise and an innovative approach to cope with a lack of resources.