The management of the Argyle International Airport (AIA), has heightened efforts to train their staff and officials, first responders, including law enforcement and health personnel, and non-governmental organisations, to be prepared to act in the event of a disaster.
The two-day Port Resiliency Program (PReP), workshop, was officially declared opened by Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, at the AIA training room on Wednesday, 27th September.
In his welcoming remarks, CEO of AIA Inc., Mr. Hadley Bourne, said that the aim of the workshop is to train all personnel to respond quickly in the aftermath of a disaster, and to have the airport up and running at the soonest time. Mr. Bourne expressed gratitude to Outreach Aid to the Americas (OAA); Americas Relief Team (ART); Director of CARICOM Outreach, Mr. Wesley Kirton and his team; for partnering with the AIA to host the workshop.
FedEx Saint Vincent Country Manager, Mrs. Wendy Minors, said that FedEx is a proud sponsor of the Port Resiliency Program. Minors described the workshop as timely now more than ever in light of recent natural disasters in the region. She wished the workshop participants every success.
CEO/OAA/PReP, Dr. Teo A. Babun, stated the AIA is the 10th airport in the Caribbean going through the PReP workshop. Dr. Babun referred to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, citing that the airport employees left their duties to source food and water. According to Dr. Babun, the airport was closed and this hampered travel and relief efforts. He hoped this lesson from Haiti would be taken into consideration and that there would never be a repeat of what happened there.
Prime Minister and Minister of Airports and Seaports, Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, stated that despite the PReP focus on the AIA, the information will be applied, in principle, to the four airports in the Grenadines. Dr. Gonsalves added that the PReP workshop would add another important layer of support to make our airports safer in the event of a disaster. This, he explained, will lead to swifter relief delivery and the country’s overall recovery.
He reminded the PReP participants the AIA has a category 1 status after being audited by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). According to Dr. Gonsalves, aircrafts can fly from this country directly to the United States, that is, those aircrafts that are registered here.
In skimming through the workshop agenda, Prime Minister Gonsalves described the topics as very interesting subjects. In particular, he singled out aircraft crash impact and response, to encourage young people to further their studies in Aviation, specifically, aircraft crash investigation. He noted there are insufficient trained persons in this field not just in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines but across the region.
This, the Minister of airports and seaports referred to as a “regional weakness.” Dr. Gonsalves stated that he raised this point at the last CARICOM meeting where he suggested the region should have a body of aircraft crash investigators.
He used the opportunity to highlight Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ vulnerability with regards to potential hazards, including the La Soufriere Volcano. Dr. Gonsalves said that he is really happy that the workshop is taking place, and urged all participants to take it seriously.
The Prime Minister also emphasised that this involves “life and death”, and our economic well-being. He told participants that they might think they are the least of the apostles but they can make a significant difference. He extended thanks to participants, to the co-odinators, and sponsors of the PReP workshop.
The PReP facilitators are Director of Aviation IOS Partners, Dr. Patricia Ryan; CEO/IOS Partners, Mr. Robert Hans; Program Director OAA/PReP, Mrs. Marciarmen Estrada; and CEO/OAA/PReP, Dr. Teo A. Babun.
Topics and sessions for day one of the workshop included: Improving Operations and Preparedness, Emergency Communications and Social Media, Aircraft Crash Impact and Response, Taking Care of Employees and Families, From Hazard and Risk Assessment to Superior Resiliency, with emphasis on volcanic ash, flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides, pandemics and communicable diseases; and a panel discussion with Government officials. On day two there were table-top exercises, reviews and an evaluation of the workshop.
The Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines collaborated with the OAA and ART, along with IOS Partners, headquartered here, sponsored by the FedEx Corporation and the Miami International Airport.