British Virgin Islands: In The Eye Of The Storm: Recap Of Hurricane Irma In The BVI

Last Updated: 9 May 2019
Article by Jeffrey Kirk

Caribbean editor Amy Ulliott talks to Jeffrey Kirk, Managing Partner of the BVI office, on how Appleby was affected by Hurricane Irma and the lessons learned since the devastating Atlantic storm.

Below is the original Q&A provided to fivehundred magazine for their April edition. Click here to read the full article (page 51). 

AU: Describe the situation on the ground as the hurricane hit?

JK: Hurricane Irma was a category 5 hurricane that passed directly over the BVI on Wednesday, 6 September 2017. The full strength of the storm was felt from around 10am that morning until the early evening when winds finally started to subside. A brief respite was felt when the eye passed over Tortola around midday but the storm returned with a vengeance bringing with it tornados and maximum winds of 220mph. During this time homes were ripped apart, vehicles and boats tossed around and dispersed and the landscape erased of any vegetation. People feared for their lives as they were forced to find any shelter they could to protect themselves and their families. Power had been lost from earlier that day and all telecommunications went down around 11am rendering people cut off from each other locally and from their friends and families overseas.

AU: What happened in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane?

JK: When Thursday dawned, the winds were still gusting and rain squalls continued to pass through. Some people set out immediately to track down family members and friends whilst other residents banded together to clear roads from fallen trees, debris and electricity poles. Whilst all roads were impassable at the beginning of that day many had been cleared by the afternoon through community efforts and the urgent need to reach supplies and medical care. Many were dazed and in shock from what they saw all around them and the monumental task that lay ahead. Tensions were further strained by reports of widespread looting and escaped convicts due to the destruction of certain parts of the prison. Supermarkets and gas stations were able to open for a few hours a day from the Friday but queues were very long and hot in the blazing heat.

AU: What was its impact on you personally and on the firm?

JK: Our house was badly damaged by Irma. Most of the French windows in the front parts of the house were blown out and a large proportion of the roof was blown off. After taking shelter in the basement for most of the storm, we spent the next few days trying to make the house as liveable as possible and to strengthen it in preparation for Hurricane Jose that was due to hit the BVI on the Saturday. In addition, we, along with our neighbours, cleared the road in order to provide access. On the Friday I made my way to the office. Due to an immediate closure of all schools and no home for the foreseeable future I was forced to relocate my family to the Cayman Islands where my son could attend school and I could travel back and forth between our Cayman office and the BVI. Appleby, as a Firm, rallied very quickly once we had confirmed that all of our staff members were safe and we relocated most of our staff to other offices by the following week to ensure firstly their personal safety and secondly that we were able to continue service to our clients.

AU: How was the firm prepared for the disaster?

JK: The Firm maintains a robust disaster recovery plan that we update regularly and communicate to staff prior to every hurricane season. As per our plan, staff were advised to make their preparations from Monday and the office was readied and closed from Tuesday lunchtime. Key staff members in other offices were also tracking the storm and prepared to trigger our evacuation procedures if and when necessary. All fee earners are equipped with laptops and are able to connect to our systems and work from any location remotely. Thankfully, our offices largely withstood Irma and a number of staff remained in the office allowing us to continue to work with the BVI Corporate registry and other key service providers.

AU: What has the firm learned as a consequence of it?

JK: Many of our colleagues in Cayman and Bermuda had experienced hurricanes beforehand. As a result, we were able to adopt the lessons learnt and protocols from this experience. However, no one could have anticipated the devastation of Irma which destroyed most emergency shelters and many public buildings. Hurricane Irma is reportedly the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the Atlantic. Five people lost their lives in the BVI during this hurricane. Subsequently, the death rate increased due to the hardships imposed in the aftermath of the hurricane. Following Irma, we have since introduced a number of additional and enhanced procedures to ensure we can more easily locate staff post hurricane such as GPS tracking through google maps and extra satellite phones. We have also engaged an air evacuation partner in the event we are faced with this level of threat in the future.

AU: What contingency plans should firms make for a natural disaster?

JK: It is essential to maintain a disaster plan that considers the possible eventualities and communicate the protocols regularly to staff. Reinforcing the importance of being adequately prepared from a personal standpoint is critical. Locating staff quickly and being able to organise a quick evacuation if necessary is also paramount. It is imperative to ensure that the physical location of all staff is ascertained and recorded and that staff are aware of the disaster recovery steps and what is required from them. In addition, maintaining up to date copies of passports and visas is critical.

AU: What about the long term impact of the hurricane i.e. legislation, disaster planning, etc.?

JK: The passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has brought with it a number of changes in key areas. New building regulations are being introduced that mandate specific disaster strength construction and legislation has been drafted to introduce greener energy mechanisms. The Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Act was passed in April 2018 to set up the Recovery and Development Agency that will manage the recovery process following international standards and in keeping with the terms of the UK loan guarantee.

AU: Any other comments?

JK: Natural disasters are a reality for law firms operating in many regions around the world. These disasters should not and will not deter firms operating in these areas, but preparation is key to minimising the risk and ensuring ongoing operations with the minimum amount of disruption.

Originally published by Legal 500's fivehundred magazine in April 2019.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions