Members of the local taxi association and tour guides spent an evening with representatives of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO), the Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA) and the Royal Montserrat Police Service (RMPS) to discuss the policy for accessing the Exclusion Zone.
MVO Director Rod Stewart said they were currently considering adaptations which could be made to the visitors centre in Flemmings to allow for wheel chair access.
Many of the cruise visitors and tourists are elderly and have challenges getting up the stairs at the observatory.
DMCA Director Billy Darroux reminded the taxi drivers and tour guides that everyone wishing to operate excursions into Zone V must be certified. This is done through the tourism division of the Office of the Premier. They are also expected to know First Aid and possess an approved safety plan.
The safety plan must be tested, he added. A suggestion was made that a simulation exercise be conducted to practice the execution of the safety plan and ensure everyone knows where the designated muster points are located.
The drivers were asked to submit requests for entry as early as possible to ensure approval as the DMCA and MVO were going to be more stringent on approving late applications.
Another caution given was to disallow passengers from wondering off the designated paths in Plymouth. Darroux noted that some of the buildings are unsafe and the ground is not compacted and may be compromised. He said recent issues have shown Montserrat doesn’t have the search and rescue capabilities and so every effort must be made to reduce the risk to all in the zone.
RMPS Inspector Maleka Newell discouraged the practice of drivers showing up at the gate to Plymouth stating they had permission from the DMCA when they did not. She added the police will stop tours from going through the gate with more tourists than they were notified of.
The police officer said they are required to have one officer for every 50 people entering the Exclusion Zone. It was suggested that the tour operators and drivers coordinate their travel times to cut down on costs as each officer called out to man the gate was due hazard pay.
Taxi Driver Reuben Meade commended the MVO and DMCA for working with them to offer the service to tourists.