Comprehensive disaster management vital

The end of August is fast approaching, which means we are almost half way through the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season. While we may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief, the latter half is usually a more active period, and so it is imperative that we are even more vigilant and prepared should a major weather system venture in this direction.

Admittedly, it may have slipped some of us that the hurricane season is already under way, as we have not had any extreme weather, though there have been heavy showers in recent days and instances where flood watches and warnings have had to be issued. However, foremost in our minds should be the impacts of Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma – the three big hurricanes of 2017 – that caused great destruction in this region and resulted in costly reconstruction bills.

It was therefore heartening to hear some weather experts revising their predictions for the 2018 season. Earlier this month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Centre suggested that there would be nine to 13 named storms, down from 12 to 16, of which four to seven would be hurricanes and no more than two major hurricanes. Now while the likelihood of storms has been reduced and Barbados is often spared, it does not mean that those which form cannot impact us, and for that reason we must be on our guard.

The truth is that a season can produce many storms, but have little or no impact because they fail to make landfall, or do not pack much fury; or it can produce just one or two which can wipe us out completely. That also brings us to the very real point – this region is not only susceptible to hurricanes and storms, but earthquakes as well. We had a not so gentle reminder of that just two days ago, when a 7.0 earthquake off Venezuela rocked through the region, rattling several countries in the island chain including us here in Barbados. Though we experienced no damage here and thankfully so, with
technology as it is we were able to see within minutes the damage caused in Trinidad and Venezuela. What those pictures and videos should have brought home forcefully to us here in Barbados and across the region, is the need for comprehensive disaster management to be centre stage.

This much-needed cultural shift in that direction has been slow in coming, but we must move in that direction, putting systems in place to prepare for, and in the aftermath deal with all types of hazards, natural and man-made. Tuesday’s earthquake should reinforce for us that hazards do not have a set time; they can come at any time and with little or no warning. Based too on the reactions of people, it is clear that persons still do not know what to do and not do during an earthquake.

This lack of knowledge could mean life or death in such cases and so it is imperative that at the national level, we do more to educate our people, starting with our children. It is our belief that if we instil these things in our children, they will in turn help to educate their parents – this has been known to work in the past in other areas.

If this is done, we would hope going forward to see everyone playing their part in reducing our vulnerability to hazards, because it cannot be the job of Government alone.

As a people we need to be proactive. By investing in planning and preparedness, we can significantly reduce the after effects or impact of hazard events, and thereafter be in a better position to respond to such and ultimately recover.

Barbados Advocate

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