EDITORIAL – Are we storm ready?
The month of June is just around the corner and while the COVID-19
pandemic is first and foremost in our minds, as it should be, we all
need to ask ourselves what steps we need to take to
ensure that we are indeed ready for this year’s hurricane season.
Barbara Carby, Director of the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre at the
University of the West Indies, recently suggested that we should be
planning for the hurricane season amid COVID 19.
“The start of May rains reminds us that the threat of floods and
shortly, the hurricane season, must now start to occupy the minds of
the region’s disaster risk management apparatus. This may seem
daunting in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic which is already
stretching resources. The economic impact of the pandemic will
negatively affect response and recovery, should countries suffer a
weather-related disaster. In view of the April forecast by Colorado
State University which calls for above normal activity for the 2020
North Atlantic season, the region must now start planning for the very real
possibility of managing two major events concurrently,” she indicated.
She went on to state that all the usual preparatory activities for the
hurricane season must take place, even though we are in a difficult
period. Further, the use of technology will be very important as in
the lead up to the season, national disaster offices must figure out how to plan
and execute training and simulation exercises remotely. Carby further said that plans,
standard operating procedures and precautionary messages will have to be
adjusted to include the combination of COVID-19 and hurricane
Indeed, we are in the midst of a pandemic and we really may not want
to think about any natural disasters descending upon us. However, we
cannot escape from the reality that we may be affected by a tropical
storm, a hurricane or some other form of natural disaster. As such,
now is the time to remind the general public of the need to stock up
on emergency supplies and non-perishable items. As they conduct their
month end shopping, citizens should even be issued with a list of
items to purchase to ensure that they are ready.
Due to the alphabetical shopping system which is now in place, it may
be hard for people to flock to stores as they are accustomed to doing
when the signal is given that a severe weather system is approaching
the island. Even though they can frequent the village shops, we do not
want scenarios where persons are so frantically shopping around for
last minute items, that they forget the key health protocols and
recommendations – for example, social distancing. We do not want
citizens breaking the law either, by going out on days assigned to
others. Therefore, this is the time for the requisite agencies such as
the Department of Emergency Management and others to issue some advice
on how citizens can navigate this period of preparing for the hurricane season,
while still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the meantime, Barbadians should take it upon themselves to clean up
around theirproperties, make sure that they have adequate containers to store
water for the entire family and ensure that all medications they need
are not in short supply. We must be proactive rather than reactive so we can
weather any storm that comes our way.