We must all be prepared for a storm
When disaster hits in the Caribbean, Barbadians take pride in reaching out to help.
Still, we do not seem to understand that the disasters which have left a path of destruction across the Caribbean can also happen here. Just reflect on David in Dominica in 1979, Gilbert in Jamaica in 1988 and Ivan in Grenada in 2004.
An average tropical storm, Tomas, brought so much damage to our island in 2010 that the houses of some people are, up to this day, not in a habitable state. Just imagine if we were to be hit by hurricane-force winds. It would be a nightmare since much of our housing stock cannot stand up against the elements in such circumstances.
We live in a hurricane zone and this underscores how likely it is that violent weather will occur here at some time. We must be prepared. The first line of preparedness must be our own homes. We need to build to standards that will save lives and protect personal belongings.
Our designated shelters – mainly schools and churches – are, for the most part, inadequate and cannot meet the needs of a wide-scale mass response on an extended basis. Many do not have the adequate pre-storm and post-storm necessities: shutters, adequate water supply and back-up power supply.
In such circumstances, the Town Planning Department and general insurance companies must reflect their true roles as guardians of society. They must insist on certain standards when people are building and upgrading houses and when purchasing coverage for these properties to ensure that homeowners comply with all the regulations.
The public must refrain from bashing the Barbados Meteorological Services when it gives a forecast and the island is spared any damage from a passing weather system. Given the technology available to them, they do a good job.
Perhaps the much criticized Constituency Councils and the District Emergency Organizations both have critical roles to play in ensuring that we are ready as a society for any pending weather system.
Both organizations should undertake mapping of the island in terms of identifying the most vulnerable properties and residents, ensure there are trained liaisons in each community and that better emergency management systems are in place in all communities.
When Barbados was last affected by a major hurricane, Janet in 1955, we had at that time a simple society. Our needs have changed in substantial ways since then. Our utility companies now provide a crucial link to both business and homes, driven by all types of necessary technology.
While we expect that others will reach out to help us in times of any major natural disaster, we must do all in our power to protect ourselves and our island. A united effort and effective preparation is the solution.