Many questions about hurricane pass policy

POSTED: 05/23/16 7:03 PM

St. Maarten News – The Office of Disaster Management that falls under the Ministry of General Affairs, has received many queries related to the change in policy regarding requesting a hurricane pass.

The change in policy is to improve safety on the public road network making it safe for clean-up crews and heavy equipment to easily move around; preventing persons and drivers from injury if there are unsafe areas and downed electricity cables; increase efficiency in the removal of hurricane debris when public roads have less traffic activity, the clean-up of the country moves faster and businesses can open sooner.

Based on past assessments from the police and the Vromi-ministry it has become noticeable of pass holders driving around as “disaster tourists” during the curfew rather than actually using the pass as prescribed.

More vehicles on the road also slow down emergency response services if only main roads are accessible and secondary roads are still to be cleaned-up.

Overall, if roads are clogged with traffic, business owners and others with a pass are unable to get to work or place of business until clean-up crews have cleared debris making areas accessible.

For the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season, a change in policy was recommended based on the aforementioned points in the national interests. 

Based on evaluations, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has decided that traffic should be minimized during curfews, therefore regular business owners and hotels are no longer eligible for hurricane passes. By this measure, curfews will be focused on rescuing, helping and assisting people in need and the cleanup of the roads.

Due to curfews being as short as possible, business owners are able to assess possible damage outside of the curfews. Hotels are advised to post key personnel on-site during a curfew, for replacements will not be possible during a curfew.

Certain vital companies, which play an important role in emergency response or the continuity of the island, are an exception to this measure.

The adjustment in policy should lead to a more efficient and effective post-disaster response and clean-up allowing the country to get back to business quicker than in the past.

The Hurricane Pass system is a mechanism to maintain public order during emergency situations.  The Prime Minister assesses the damage in conjunction with Emergency Disaster Management entities of the Government after a disaster has occurred and can impose a curfew if the extent of the damage poses a threat to the safety and security of the community.

After a disaster has struck, and a curfew has been imposed, the public roads can only be accessed by emergency crews.  The Prime Minister will ensure that the curfew is limited to the essential time that is needed to execute emergency and disaster relief and recovery efforts.

An application form can be requested by sending an email to: hurricanepassrequest@sintmaartengov.org

The application form has to be completed and submitted to the offices of the Fire Department & Disaster Management, to the attention of the secretary located at Jackal Road 5 (Office hours Monday-Friday 9.00AM to 4.00PM), Cay Hill or at the Simpson Bay Public Service Center, (Monday-Friday 8.30AM to 12.00PM and 1.00PM to 3.30PM) Airport Road 6, before May 27, 2016, with all necessary documents attached.

Applicants will be informed by email or telephone when to pick up the pass at the aforementioned addresses.

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