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AWRIGHT DEN!: DEM was right

COREY WORRELL, [email protected]

AWRIGHT DEN!: DEM was right

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IN BARBADOS it is illegal to drive a on the public road without the vehicle being insured.

Although this is a motivating factor for insuring your car, another is the security in knowing that in the event of an accident, you and your vehicle are generally covered.

Medical, house and travel insurance are other ways we prepare for the “unplanned” or “unsure”. The harsh reality about preparing for uncertainty is that if nothing occurs, you feel as if you have lost, but in the event you aren’t, your loss is always much greater.

Last week Barbados faced a serious threat from Tropical Storm Matthew, which later strengthened to a hurricane. The Department of Emergency Management (DEM) and the Government received both praise and criticism for various things throughout the week, one being the shutting down of the country.

Emergency/disaster management is a field primarily focused on uncertainty. Predicting the timing, size, duration or location of a natural hazard is impossible. However, through the use of technology, geoscientists and earth scientists are able to forecast natural hazards like landslides, flooding, earthquakes, wildfires and, in our case, hurricanes.

Hurricanes are unpredictable and as the saying goes, “they have a mind of their own”. Any advisory given for a national shutdown or for residents in areas prone to flooding to relocate, isn’t given haphazardly or flippantly. The safety of the public is always the primary focus during these decisions.

Contrary to popular belief, the DEM doesn’t act on its own during times like these. It is part of a large, well-informed and organised emergency mechanism called the National Emergency Management System (NEMS), which facilitates emergency management in Barbados.

NEMS comprises of the following groupings; the Emergency Management Advisory Council (EMAC), the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), the DEM, 15 emergency management standing committees and 30 District Emergency Organisations (DEOs).

The EMAC, which is also known as the National Disaster Committee, is made up of emergency services, key government ministries and departments, the private sector, NGOs, community-based organisations, and international and regional emergency management organisations. EMAC can be viewed as the executive level.

The NEOC is a central location from which collecting, analysing and disseminating information; interagency coordination and mobilising of resources; damage assessment and needs analysis; coordination of planning, preparedness, response and recovery activities during an emergency are managed.

The DEM is normally where the NEOC would be located and comprises emergency management teams, technical personnel from the agencies which are members of the EMAC, as well as volunteers. The NEOC is structured to provide 24-hour operation during any emergency. It can be viewed as the technical level.

The DEM is responsible for the coordination of partners, stakeholders and activities during emergencies or potential hazards. They are governed by a contingency plan and standing operating procedures, and when it comes to weather systems such as hurricanes, are updated and advised by the Barbados Meteorological Services, commonly known as the Met Office.

For the country to reach a stage where an advisory to shut down is communicated, the public can rest assured that the advisory was made based on credible information, through analysis and discussion at the EMAC level. As the possibility of a threat to Barbados becomes greater in the case of a hurricane, generally a pre-impact meeting would be convened where possible scenarios, capabilities, resources, areas of concern and other national concerns are assessed and discussed.

Matthew did to Jamaica what it did to Barbados. Yes, we were both spared a direct impact, but it is always best to be prepared and take necessary precautions than to be caught unprepared and face dire consequences.

Thank you DEM and members of EMAC for your work during Tropical Storm Matthew.

More information about the National Emergency Management System can be found on the DEM’s website,

• Corey Worrell, a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, is director of C2J Foundation Inc., a project-based NGO focusing on social development. Email: [email protected]