A year after the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) announced plans to revise the national shutdown policy, it emerged today that the controversial strategy has remained unchanged for three years.
The policy came under scrutiny in 2016 after a number of businesses remained open during the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew, despite a shutdown order.
It later emerged that there were no clear procedures governing closure, and last June, at the start of the hurricane season, the DEM promised to revise the plan to include the timeframe within which the business sector would close in order that employees can get home safely, as well as facilitate traffic management, evacuation of Bridgetown if necessary, and the storage of food and water on a national basis, should there be a powerful hurricane, tsunami, or earthquake that compromises the population.
However, speaking today at a news conference at the General Post Office to mark the start of the 2018 hurricane season, DEM Director Kerry Hinds revealed it has been three years since the last review.
“We have a policy document which was revised in 2015 and approved by the then Cabinet of Barbados and speaks to the national shutdown and the reactivation of the country,” she said, adding that the plan had its faults.
“Over the last couple of years we would have had some issues in terms of that particular policy.”
Hinds said discussions had been held with a number of organizations, including the Social Partners, but “like any other document that we utilize at the national level there is always room for improvement and we also seek to review once something occurs”.
She said one of the areas that needed improvement was sensitizing the public to the provisions of the policy, adding that the process would begin with a series of public service announcements over the hurricane season.
Hinds also said the department was ensuring the readiness of the national emergency operations centres, with improvements to the multi-hazard warning and alerting system, and commencing policy and legislative reviews, while encouraging Barbadians to focus on “getting ready and staying ready”.