Perry’s on a mission
Making sure all St James residents, particularly those living along the coast, are ready for any natural disaster is the primary concern of St James North District Emergency Organization (DEO) president Phil Perry.
Perry says that because of the proximity to the sea, St James folk could be greatly impacted by a tsunami, and are at risk of losing a great deal of their infrastructure to storm surges.
It is, therefore, his intention to train as many people in the catchment area in risk assessment disaster management, first aid, and response. Perry said that a major focus would be on reaching younger people who had the physical strength to respond quickly in times of disaster.
Plus, the DEO head wants to inject some youthful vigour into an organization he says has been dormant for a while.
“Most of the current members are older, and though they may be suitable for administrative work, in the event of a disaster, when it calls for muscle and dexterity, they will not fit the bill,” Perry argues.
And training he wants to add to that muscle. With residents not trained, he said, their effectiveness in case of a natural disaster could be compromised.
“If there are people who know how to give first aid, they are useful. But if untrained . . . . So it is that level of training that I am looking at having put in place,” Perry added.
The DEO president also wants to set up a programme this year that will speak to the physically challenged and how they can be moved quickly in an emergency, having mapped out the district to locate such people, particularly the elderly and those in senior citizens homes.
Schools are also in Perry’s plans, with schoolchildren being given drills on what to do in the event of an earthquake and the like.
“Our worry along this [St James] coast is more of a tsunami one than a hurricane worry. I am confident that the general housing stock has improved to such a degree that the average hurricane for the average Barbadian now is not the same threat it was in the time of Janet,” he says.
Perry said if the underwater volcano Kick ’Em Jenny decided “to play up”, there would be a tsunami, and “with a tsunami it’s the time factor”. Advised he: “There is not usually enough time to prepare between the event and impact; and, given the small nature of the Caribbean, there is [about] 20 minutes to get everyone mobilized to seek safety.” Sensitization to tsunamis was crucial therefore to those living along the coast, Perry stressed.
The disaster emergency official lamented that along this very St James coast were wealthy owners of homes and hotels who did not see themselves as being a part of the community.
“You cannot even get in to talk to them about what is happening . . . . We do not know what their status is; we are not even sure if they have a disaster evacuation plan.”
Even without this challenge, there was a need for the St James North District DEO to bolster its numbers, its current membership, according to Perry, comprising only three “younger persons”.
“I am hoping that by the end of the year we will have a greater cadre of young people who can go into training and can implement some of the tactics that we have in our framework . . . .
“We have persons in place to facilitate the training. We just need the people to be trained.”
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency-trained Perry has been involved in disaster risk management at different levels for about ten years, having taken several certificate courses himself.
For all the emphasis on training, though, and systems in place, Perry sincerely hopes “we never actuall have to use them”.
The St James North District DEO is working on a newsletter that will keep households informed on what it is about, on what’s up, and on how to become a volunteer.
Phil Perry needs youth!