The Department of Emergency Management has been streamlining its activities since Tropical Storm Tomas to hopefully plug any gaps in the response mechanism this hurricane season.
Director Judy Thomas said there were about 15 standing committees with whom the DEM communicated in its planning. The Welfare Committee was scheduled to meet today to look at procedures and she said there would be another general meeting of the entire emergency management system on Wednesday with the Attorney General on the state of readiness.
“We are paying special attention to the warning process and Mr. [Hampton] Lovell [of the Meteorological Department] has indicated that they are working on an improved warning system for Barbados. When you get the notices, what you are supposed to do at a particular point in time is something that will be stressed in our public relations programme as we go into the hurricane season.
“We are also going to be looking at the close down of Barbados when a warning is given in a systematic way. You know we have a protocol that speaks to a systematic shutdown and we will use that protocol again this year and when the all-clear is given we expect that persons would come out and do what is necessary to start the country back to a state of normalcy.”
What happens after the all-clear, she noted though, was an area they were also working to streamline, especially with relation to relief and rehabilitation.
She said based on the experience from Tomas, they were tightening those procedures to have a better response should something happen.
“There might have been some gaps coming out of the Tomas experience that we are trying to plug and ensure there is not a long delay and ensure that things go a little bit more smoothly than they would have gone.”
She said they were also working on a system where those most severely impacted could report their situation within 15 days so their names could be included on the national list of victims.
Thomas explained that there was criteria in existence to help those on the national list, and those guidelines would once again be in operation this hurricane season.
It would include those who are indigent, below the poverty line, the elderly, and a means test would be performed to determine who qualified. She said assistance would not be provided for individuals with insurance.
“It is a shared responsibility. If we do our part and the public doesn’t do their part then we are not going to be able to have the capacity to fulfil the mandate this country is expected to deliver. So I would want to urge the standing committees … that they are pretty sure what procedures they are going to be using this year.”
Additionally, for the first time, Thomas said the Bajan Diaspora had also extended a hand of assistance should the island need it. (LB)