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Planning to Build?

It’s Time to Know Your Risks  –  From just about anywhere in the Virgin Islands, you can witness spectacular views of turquoise blue waters, lush green hill sides and blue skies.  For potential homeowners these views are important when deciding where to place their dwelling on house lots.  To help you find the best and safest location for your dwellings, the Territory's Department of Disaster Management (DDM) wants you to know your risks.

In 2008 the department began offering property hazard assessments to land owners before they began the construction and even the design phase.  If you do not own land yet, don’t worry.  If you are driving around scoping out potential property, just by knowing the property’s block and parcel number, you too can acquire a full assessment.  

“A hazard assessment provides a better understanding of the risks that may affect a property.” says Cindy Rolli, Senior Technical Planning Manager for the Department of Disaster Management.    Considering geological mapping and scientific models, hazard reports contain assessments of hazards relating to some natural or man-made events.  Potential hazards that can affect the Territory include, hurricanes, floods, land or mud slides, earthquakes and even tsunamis. 

 

Reports provide information on the geology and grade of land as well as its exposure to tranquil winds, that can become dangerous in times of hurricanes.  Rolli says the report identifies relevant natural hazard affects that may affect property, estimates the severity of impacts on property, determine the feasibility of a potential property as well as weigh predicted impacts against the potential mitigation measures.  Ultimately helping potential homeowners decide weather the risk of building in a particular location is worth it or what they need to consider in the design and construction phases to protect the property.

Rolli encourages persons in the Territory to utilise the department’s property hazard assessment services.  She said, “Given that the Territory is prone to hazards that can be costly if not managed properly, a hazard assessment is a great way to know before hand, the feasibility of building in a particular location.” 

So what if you found the right piece of land, where you can hear the waves calmly lashing the sand, the wind gently cooling the air and the sun smiling subtly over your property but based on an assessment report, building in that particular location poses some challenges?  Property hazard assessments are complete with recommendations to best manage risks.  These recommendations may mean cutting assess roads differently, a better engineered retaining wall or better means to manage ghuts and natural drainage.

Though assessments are not mandatory, the department hopes present and future homeowners understand the need to mitigate against hazards.  With a thorough assessment, property owners have the opportunity to know in advance, potential threats to their property based on the property’s geology and location.  With this knowledge homeowners are encouraged to protect their investment and do all they can to properly manage any hazard impact.

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Persons interested in obtaining a property hazard are encouraged to contact the department.  Assessments can completed within six weeks of a request.  Though property owners may obtain a report from DDM, the agency strongly recommends site investigations and engineering reports.  A detailed description of natural hazards and the steps homeowners may take to protect their properties and reduce the impact of natural hazards can be found on the Department of Disaster Management’s website at www.bviddm.com. 

Professionals in the property and real estate field that are interested in learning more about seismic hazards and designing for such hazards in the BVI are invited to three workshops DDM will be hosting during the first quarter of 2009.  Workshops will be targeting engineers, architects, environmentalists, planners, contractors, developers, bankers, as well as insurance and real estate agents.  Participants will get a chance to hear from a panel of regional and local experts apt in building design, hazard mitigation construction methods and development planning. 

The first workshop will be held on January 23-24, focusing on seismic hazard and design.  The second workshop will provide an overview of the impact assessment process from February 18-20 and the third workshop will be held from March 11-12 focusing on safe design and construction methods.  For more information contact DDM at (284) 468-3701 ext. 4200 or email them at [email protected] 

Operating under the Deputy Governor’s Office, the Department of Disaster Management seeks to reduce loss of life and property attributable to disasters by ensuring that adequate preparedness and mitigation measures, and response and recovery mechanisms are established to counteract the impact of natural and technological hazards.

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