The head of a national emergency organization has thrown out a challenge for the reintroduction of a national swimming programme to help Barbadians prepare themselves for a tsunami, as she announced that a protocol outlining the standard operating procedures outlining how to handle an earthquake or tsunami affecting Barbados has been approved by the Emergency Management Advisory Council.
Director of the Department of Emergency Management Judy Thomas made the call and disclosure today as the association officially launched its 2015 tsunami and earthquake smart month of activities at the DEM’s office.
Thomas proposed that the swimming programme be implemented in schools as one method of helping children be prepared for a tsunami.
“We would want to see a national swimming programme in this country. I know there was a swimming programme many years ago, but we need to make sure that somebody takes up the mantle of ensuring that there are swimming classes in all of our primary schools to begin with,” she said.
“I think that the Cubans, they have a national programme and we can easily talk to the Cubans in terms of how they initiated their own and go from there. There may be other people that are doing marine things in the environment that could take up the challenge . . . A lot of adults are not comfortable with the sea and certainly once there is fear about the sea they instill this fear in their own children, and I think that I want to challenge my department to run with it as well as to provide some leadership to it, but also the Ministry of Education and the volunteers in our community to take it up.”
On the protocol, Thomas said it had been sent on to the Ministry of Home Affairs for approval, after which the Attorney General would decide if additional legislation under the Emergency Management Act was needed to promote the goals and objectives of the island’s earthquake and tsunami programme.
The theme of this month’s activities is Come on Barbados: Let’s Team up and Combat the Impact of Coastal Hazards.
And with a focus on the tourism sector and primary and secondary schools, the DEM has joined forces with a number of organizations, including the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) and the Caribbean Tsunami Information Centre (CTIC), as they embark on a number of initiatives to help the island become better prepared for Tsunami and earthquake.
This year, the organizations will be working with nine primary and secondary schools across the island in order to get the message out. One simulation exercise will be carried out at the Alleyne School.
Also on the calendar of events for this month will be three movie nights, one of which is to be held on the Dover playing field in Christ Church, displays at three of the island’s libraries, a community focus exercise for volunteers and sensitization workshops with a visiting delegation from the seismic research centre out of Trinidad.
Interim director of the Caribbean Tsunami Information Centre (CTIC) Alison Brome said they were in the process of embarking on a Tsunami recognition programme in which they would identify a number of parameters across the island in which to erect signage.
She said they were also hoping to embark on setting up an emergency managers information network, which would allow the meteorological service to receive information in “a quick time” and transfer that information to the national players.
“In addition, we are embarking on proposals to actually enhance public awareness and education materials primarily for secondary and primary schools,” added Brome.
“We spoke a bit about the education sector and the business sector, but one area we want to focus on is tourism, primarily because of the coastal nature of the tsunami hazard and within the Caribbean many of our countries have a very densely populated coastline and tourism is the bread and butter of many of our economies. Therefore it is not only to have our systems available but also to have the tourists knowledgeable,” said Brome.
She said that there programmes to help hotels become more certified and regularized in relation to their level of hazard preparedness.
Meanwhile, director of the CZMU Dr Lorna Inniss said that organization was working with the UN to develop a programme to begin the establishment of a Common Alerting Protocol network (CAP).
She explained that that platform would allow for Barbadians to receive a message when an earthquake or tsunami was eminent. A pilot of the project is being carried out in Holetown.
“We expect that over the next few years as we come to the month of March there would have been significant progress in the establishment of this national dissemination programme so that more Barbadians can receive the message in real time,” said Inniss.