After the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew in 2016, the Social Partnership was questioned, as the demands for a national shutdown by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) were promptly ignored by private enterprises.
Nearly six months later, a resolution has yet to be found.
Speaking at a press conference marking Earthquake and Tsunami Smart Month, DEM Director Kerry Hinds informed the media that discussions with the Social Partnership were ongoing.
“There are plans to have additional discussions because it is an issue that is very important for us at the national level,” she said.
In the meantime, the the DEM plans to use Earthquake and Tsunami month to raise public awareness of disaster management in general.
“This has been fuelled by increased seismic activity that has affected Barbados. What we have seen at the national level is a request for the Department of Emergency Management, Coastal Zone Management Unit, other entities, to deliver a number of sensitization sessions . . . geared towards the public, the private sector,” she explained.
Hinds also revealed that following the recent passage of Hurricane Matthew, the DEM was chastised for neglecting the deaf community in terms of their two-day coverage of the storm.
However, Senior Meteorologist at Barbados Meteorological Services (BMS) Clairmonte Williams sought to caution the public that earthquake and tsunami preparedness differed greatly from that for a tropical storm.
“With a hurricane or tropical storm, you can plan in advance, you should be proactive but that is not the case with a tsunami event . . . . To this day no scientist has been able to predict when an earthquake will occur, so it is not something you can plan for. Rather than being proactive you have to react now when it does occur ,” he said.
“The MET Office might not have adequate time to give the public adequate notice, so as a member of the public, you have to know beforehand the situation of if a tsunami is occurring what you are supposed to do,” he added.
The senior meteorologist stressed that public awareness was necessary, considering that in some cases the general public would only be informed after the fact.
“In the event of an earthquake which has triggered a tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is not going to be able to issue any warnings until after five to eight minutes after the earthquake,” he stressed.
Beginning March 17, the DEM will, as part of its efforts to raise awareness of earthquakes and tsunami events, be embarking on a number of activities, which will target primary and secondary school, disabled persons and the general public.