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Bajans not disaster ready

Bryan Walker

Bajans not disaster ready

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WITH THE HURRICANE season just five weeks away, a leading disaster official is warning Barbadians that they must get their house in order.
Head of the Department of Emergency Management, Judy Thomas, is concerned that despite recent devastation caused by torrential rains and high winds, residents are simply not taking disaster preparedness seriously enough. 
Just two weeks ago,a trough system drenched northern districts, leaving many householders and businesses to pick up the pieces. Several homes were flooded out, roads damaged and cars washed away.
The impact added to the woes of those still reeling from the effects of Tropical Storm Tomas last October.
However, Thomas is worried that Barbadians appear none the wiser in terms of their hazard response and mitigation. She complained that far too many were still over-reliant on the national emergency services.
“Barbadians are not accustomed to hazards and hazard impacts like other countries . . . . They are not particularly keen on preparedness; it is not sexy and you don’t see the whistles and the lights when you are preparing. [They] don’t want to be bothered with it,” she told the SUNDAY SUN in an interview at her Warrens, St Michael office. 
“It seems to me they want to leave it to somebody who is paid to do that . . . . They think that the Government . . . has some magical people somewhere who are going to be mobilized and come immediately outside of their doors and respond to a problem right there. And that will not happen, nor has happened in any disaster I have seen.”
The DEM director also brushed aside criticisms from some quarters that her department and the emergency services in general needed to improve on responsiveness.
“You would know that if you live in a flood-prone area, and you see rainfall from 9 o’clock to 2 o’clock, you don’t need [anybody] to come and tell you that you are in a flood plain, and that you should move things in your house to safeguard them. These are traditional threats that people have every year twice a year. But people are not taking their responsibility.”
Thomas said a major catastrophe might be the only thing to get Barbadians fully on board.
Renowned American forecaster William Gray has predicted 16 storms for the Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1, with nine them expected to develop into hurricanes. Last year there were 19 named storms, 12 of which formed hurricanes.