EDITORIAL: Don’t panic, be cautious
THE CALL for Barbadians not to panic and to exercise continued vigilance following increased seismic activity of the underwater volcano Kick ’em Jenny just off Grenada on Thursday must be heeded.
After Barbados was put on orange alert, emergency officials were at pains to put the fears of many Barbadians at rest as they were unclear and confused about what this meant for the country.
Many, understandably so, kept their ears glued to their radios for any information released, especially after the country had experienced four earth tremors just over a week ago and one earlier this week.
The orange alert, according to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Unit, meant there was a highly elevated level of seismic and/or fumarolic activity or other unusual activity with the possibility of eruption to begin with less than 24 hours notice.
Imagine the panic and confusion many a Barbadian would have felt after waking up and hearing this information that went viral on social media sites.
By afternoon officials had called a Press conference to explain what was happening and to put concerns and fears at rest.
While officials were able to calm some nerves, explaining that Barbados was not on a tsunami alert, detailed plans of an evacuation in the event of an emergency following any volcanic activity, were not communicated.
Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite would only say this country had gone down this road before with an orange alert in 2001. As a result, he said they could only emphasise preparedness.
The panic and concern of Barbadians was recognised by officials but in some way may have been underestimated because what people needed to hear was a clear plan of action in the event that an emergency did occur.
The reality is that we are in the midst of the Crop Over season where this country is welcoming thousands for the Festival, who would need to feel comforted in the fact that our officials have a plan should any disaster occur.
In addition, there are others like individuals who run day care facilities for babies and toddlers, homes that cater to the elderly, those with special needs, who would have been eager to hear more information.
For those who work or live in densely populated urban Barbados, ears would have been to the ground soaking up any information they could get about plans for movement out of The City which immediately becomes clogged and congested even with heavy rains.
Perhaps more information and a clearly articulated plan of action could have been communicated to a public that was already tense and nervous given the increased seismic activity of a neighbouring volcano.
Fortunately, there is still time for our officials and experts to disseminate such information to make sure that our people are armed with the knowledge they would need if any such disaster should occur.
We are comforted by the fact that officials did say they would be constantly monitoring for updates and will inform the public of any changes – upwards or downwards of alerts.
Any information of this activity would be appreciated by the public and for now we heed the words of caution – don’t panic.