Last week’s rain a call to arms
Last Friday’s deluge was the alarm clock reminding authorities that it is time to wake up on the disaster management issue.
The torrent created hazardous conditions on the road, in homes, in public places, at sea and overhead as tree branches gave way under the battering rains. Thankfully the terrible conditions also brought out the community spirit in Barbadians as two women were lifted to safety from their stalled vehicle in the midst of rising waters along Bush Hall Main Road, St Michael.
But similar dangerous situations and much worse are to be expected at this time, during the heart of the hurricane season.
The island has long shifted its focus from just readiness for the hurricane season and towards any major disaster, for example a spreading fire or earth tremors.
However, while they look to protect the residents from the greater harm posed by any infernos, quakes or floods, the authorities need to consider the small things that would mitigate the impact of those disasters.
By now schools, churches, companies and any place where large numbers congregate should be inundated with information, disseminated in any fashion, about the preventative measures. Every pupil, student, employee and resident should be able to recite without prompting, what to do in case of an emergency, what to do when an evacuation is called and how to respond to an approaching threat.
This, sadly, is not the case.
In fact, there was a noticeable absence of the emergency managers’ voices during last week’s submerging of the island. Here was the ideal situation for a test run of a coordinated response by the emergency agencies.
Some disaster official should have been on the air advising people on procedure, whether it was to avoid making their situation worse or a simple reminder of the location of hurricane shelters.
That would have been of critical importance since only last week, Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman revealed that the ministry’s housing stock had been placed under tremendous pressure following a high number of fires that had left dozens homeless. With the newly constructed houses already allocated, Kellman said the ministry was hard-pressed for houses and could not find alternative accommodation for even the elderly Pearline Downes whose ramshackle house in St Joseph he was visiting at the time.
Consider the chaos from having to put hundreds of displaced residents into the temporary lodgings of churches and schools that would later have to be pressed back into service. Should there not be alternative housing stock for such eventualities?
That not being the case, isn’t it wise to have people look after their own interests from early.
This goes to the heart of being prepared, from the regular debushing of the landscape to the regular clearing of the drainage system in a sustained manner and the inspection of alternative temporary housing for the displaced.
We can no longer afford to hit the snooze button and capture an extra couple of minutes before waking up to face what is about to befall us.