Disaster response in the Overseas Territories

Impact 5
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upper likelihood error bar
risk indicator lower likelihood error bar
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Impact & Likelihood
Impact key
5 Catastrophic
4 Significant
3 Moderate
2 Limited
1 Minor
Likelihood key
5 >25%
4 5-25%
3 1-5%
2 0.2-1%
1 <0.2%


The Overseas Territories (OT) are particularly vulnerable to high-impact natural hazards such as hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes. For example, 2 devastating hurricanes (Hurricanes Irma and Maria) led to widespread destruction across the Caribbean in 2017.


One possible scenario is based on a hurricane occurring in one of the Caribbean OTs that exceeds local response capacity and requires significant short-term support (humanitarian aid and emergency services) and long-term UK response (relief and recovery). It is possible that a natural hazard may hit several Caribbean OTs at once, such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Impacts could include fatalities and casualties, damage to infrastructure and security consequences (law and order breaking down). There would also be a significant impact on the economy and wider society, as well as a risk to the UK Government’s reputation during the recovery operation.

Key assumptions

The scenario assumes that the small government structures in the OTs do not have the capability to provide adequate crisis management.


The 14 inhabited OTs are spread across the globe and are susceptible to different disasters, with a major disaster in any of them requiring some form of response. For example, a natural hazard hitting an OT will involve the local population and possibly large numbers of tourists. Some OTs have active volcanoes – were they to erupt, this would be another scenario that would cause widespread disruption and might require evacuation.

Response capability requirements

Initial support would need to be flown in from the UK, who would then work with the OT government to assess and plan for longer-term recovery. Cross-government support may be required in the immediate response phase.


The first few days would be critical as UK support would be needed to reopen ports, re-establish order and repair key utilities (water, power, etc). The organisation would need to transition to a long-term support model to help the OTs rebuild over time. It is impossible to predict what the overall impact would be, but there would potentially be major reconstruction work required.