Those two words ably sum up how most Barbadians ought to feel after a very slight brush by Tropical Storm Ernesto before sunrise this morning. We are sure there are some repeating that oft heard term “God is truly a Bajan!” That, it would appear, can be the only justification for the “protection” we have had from storms for so many decades.
What we fear though, is that rather than giving thanks to the Almighty, while getting even better prepared for the next threat, this morning’s episode will lead to greater complacency by a population that at the moment can only be described as recalcitrant.
Discipline in preparing for the annual threats that come with the Hurricane Season is not one of our strong point. Just look at what happened in the 12 or so hours before Ernesto was due to impact the island. Streets were literally choked as Bajans rushed to the hardware stores, supermarkets and membership clubs that specialise in bulk shopping to top up their supplies — or more likely to acquire supplies for the first time.
But why should this have been so when we have completed a full eight weeks of the Hurricane Season, characterised by constant reminders of what we need to do on the radio stations as well as in the columns of newspapers? We are reasonably sure that many Barbadians woke up this morning happy Ernesto skirted us simply because if they had to use one during the night they did not have a working flashlight, did not have a battery operated radio, had taken no steps to secure valuable documents, did not catch as much as a gallon bottle of drinking water and had not filled a bucket in case they had to take a bath and the tap was dry.
We are also willing to bet that if a poll was conducted today a significant number of Barbadians would not be able to identify the hurricane shelter nearest to them; and worse yet could not give a list of items they should have at the ready in case they needed to evacuate.
In a nutshell, we are saying emphatically that Barbadians were not prepared for a strike from Ernesto.
In many ways we could put the Department of Emergency Management and the National Advisory Committee of HIV/AIDS to operate from the same emergency centre, because Barbadians treat both with the same disdain. We hear the messages, we understand the messages [we can’t claim otherwise, given their simplicity] but then we act totally contrary to the advice.
Unfortunately, while we can avoid HIV by acting responsibly, it is beyond our capacity as lowly humans to avoid a hurricane — short of relocated to some place outside of the hurricane belt. The best we can do is prepare for them. And sooner or later, like it or not, we are going to eventually face one head on and the only thing that will save us from an extended period of absolutely misery will be the extent of our preparations.
So we have covered June (too soon), July (stand-by) and are into August (a must): Will we in September be remembering when we were struck by Hurricane Whateverhisnameis and lamenting our utter lack of preparedness and wondering how much better off we would have been if we had only followed the advice of the authorities?
We hope not!