With over a month before the 2017 hurricane season officially ends, Barbadians are being encouraged to put in place a family plan in the event of a disaster.
To date, several Caribbean islands have suffered extensive damage from this year’s storms, including Barbados’ CARICOM neighbours, Barbuda and Dominica, which were decimated by category five hurricanes Irma and Maria last month.
Petty Officer at the Barbados Defence Force (BDF), McAndrew Ottley, who was deployed to Dominica, told a news conference that after seeing the extent of devastation caused by the powerful cyclone, he would like Barbadians to know that they can no longer take for granted that they will be spared by future disasters.
And on his return home, he took swift action to secure his family’s wellbeing.
“Having seen what I saw, I went and I made sure I start to put things in place. We cannot always depend on the Barbados Defence Force, the police force to do things for us, we have to start at home. So … we make sure we have all of our canned items and everything so that we can get things done, and not wait for anybody to come and do it for us.
“When I went home I went and checked the price of a generator. I went and [spoke] to a carpenter about coming and check on my roof … I went and checked the price of tarpaulin. I put things in place so that my family could make contact because one of the main problems that we had is that a policeman telling me ‘I have not seen my family in two days. I do not know if they are dead, if they are alive, I don’t know if the house is standing, I do not know anything’. So I have put mechanisms in place now for my family to make contact with each other… so that we know the state of the family,” Ottley said.
When Maria struck, some Dominican officers were also in the Virgin Islands assisting with recovery efforts there, following the passage of Hurricane Irma earlier in the month. Like most residents, they too were affected by the storm and had to be relieved of their duties.
The BDF’s PRO, Captain Maria Moore said there is a welfare system that assists officers who have been deployed, as well as their families.
“We make sure that we look after the families who are left here behind because we cannot have them out there doing their job effectively if they are going to be worrying about what is happening to their families back home,” she said.
Barbados has not experienced a major hurricane since Janet in 1955, and Captain Moore stressed the need for communities to take every precaution.
“We try to be as prepared as possible and that is one of the reasons why we would like the general public to focus on being as prepared… Yes you cannot be totally prepared but there has to be some level of preparation at the national level, at community level. If each community, each village, each development would try to put something in place to help counteract anything that may happen, it makes it much easier on the national system if and when something does occur,” Captain Moore said.