A fully operational integrated dispatch centre for emergencies is needed for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to enhance communication between emergency services and communication between the islands in case of a crisis or disaster. But such a centre is not feasible in the short term. This writes The Daily Herald. Dutch Minister of Safety and Justice Ivo Opstelten stated this in a letter that he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday relating to the baseline assessment of the disaster management organisation of the Caribbean Netherlands, carried out by the inspection of the Ministry of Safety and Justice.
The minister stated that there was “much work to do” where it came to the joint dispatch centre for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Bonaire has such a centre, but it was still under construction at the time of the inspection, while it also does not formally form part of the main structure of the disaster management organisation. The Island Governors have indicated to Opstelten that their main desire was to have a wellfunctioning alarm system in the dispatch centre for the police and fire department on their individual islands, considering the geographic distances between the islands and the reliance on a dependable communication network. Opstelten concurred that for now an integrated dispatch centre for all islands was not feasible, both organisationally and technically. “I give priority to a phased setting up of a well-functioning dispatch centre per island whereby police have preference, followed by the fire department. After that we can work with the Executive Councils on an optimal cooperation with the emergency call centre,” he stated.
The inspection, which coordinates the disaster management organisation of the islands, further concluded that the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands are not fully prepared to deal with disasters or crises, partly due to limited assistance capacity. The islands are also highly dependent on assistance and self-reliance. Several related regulations and covenants have not been ratified at all.
The minister stated that both he and the inspection are aware of the fact that the disaster management organisation in the Caribbean Netherlands is still in the building-up phase and that the execution of recommendations will require the necessary time and capacity. Opstelten pointed out that various steps have been taken to improve disaster management on the islands. Disaster plans have been drafted, trainings and exercises have taken place and the necessary equipment has been delivered to the islands. All three islands have received generators and a video-conference system, while the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment has supplied equipment to deal with maritime disasters. Quads were delivered to St. Eustatius and Saba. The financial contribution of the Netherlands will be evaluated with the islands this year to see whether this can be put to use more efficiently.