It’s day three of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season, and all’s quiet on the eastern horizon — very much in keeping with the reminder “June too soon”.
But all across the Caribbean there must be tens of thousands of householders hoping that, despite the predictions of a more active than normal season, their luck will hold and any systems which develop will at worst skirt their homeland.
We can all hope — but we suspect that it would make a lot more sense if every Caribbean resident tempers hope with a healthy dose of commonsense in the form of preparation.
In recent times much of the world has been faced with what would seem like an inordinate number of disasters, both natural and man-made. These events would all have taxed the infrastructural and economic capacities of the impacted jurisdictions. And whether we are talking about another Caribbean territory, the United States, Europe or Asia, it ought to be quite clear to us by now that most people have their own challenges to cope with.
Looked at another way, regardless of our friendships with other governments and their willingness to help us in our hour of need, the reality would suggest that desire will not be met by an equal helping of ability.
As a matter of fact, Barbadians should recall that just days ago United States President Barack Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie returned to the scene of devastation to look at the progress — and in far too many cases, lack of progress — in rebuilding since Superstorm Sandy struck the US east coast last year.
We are into a new hurricane season and the recovery effort still has a mighty long way to go. The US will have a hard time throwing any significant amount of assistance our way at this time if we are unfortunate enough to be impacted severely by a weather system.
But there is an even more present reason why commonsense preparation at this stage ought to be central in the mind of every Barbadian household. It has to do with the state of our own national finances. Even under normal circumstances, it is clear that Government is struggling to keep its bills current and any spike in demand on the Treasury will most likely result in the diversion of funds from some other critical area of public administration. There is no war chest to draw from.
The best way therefore to keep our national finances from taking an unnecessary direct hit, is for individual householders to act now to minimise the potential for catastrophic damage. Unfortunately, we can determine neither the size, intensity nor path of any system leaving the west coast of Africa, but we should take steps, to the best of our ability to ensure that a tropical storm does not have the impact of a Category 3 hurricane.
The investment of a few dollars, or even a few hundred dollars, to acquire and have professional installed, hurricane straps to the roofs of our homes, or bolts to tie wooden houses to the foundations. Home owners might also be fortunate enough to discover that a few sheets of plywood and some bolts and screws turn out to be much more economic when used as hurricane shutters, compared with replacing storm-damaged windows.
At the community level, residents ought to know if they are living in areas that are prone to flooding and prepare now for evasive action. Again it makes no sense watching filthy water flood valuable possessions when with a little foresight steps could be taken to elevate them on the approach of bad weather.
Residents ought also at this stage to act as true neighbours and communities and set out now, while there is time, to clear their own drains and suck wells. Government has a role to play, but if it fails to act, what do you do — protest or act to help yourself? Whose sofa, beds, electrical appliances etc will be lost as a result of flooding?
Fortunately, even for the greatest sloth, there is still time to act! Those who would like to but can’t financially, ought still even at this stage to come under the Government’s radar. Supplying vouchers for hurricane straps, foundation bolts etc might not be a bad idea, considering there are still households that have not recovered from a brush with the weakest of systems, Tropical Storm Tomas, three years ago.