Government will review its national shutdown policy, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson assured today in an address to private sector officials at a seminar at the United Nations (UN) House, Marine Gardens, Christ Church.
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 Department of Emergency Management (DEM) had promised to revise the plan to include the time frame within which the business sector would close in order for employees to 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, two years later, the promised changes have not been forthcoming until today when Hinkson, the minister with responsibility for the country’s disaster preparedness, told those gathered at UN House that “as a new Government we will be reviewing the existing national shutdown policy and reopening guidelines, with the objective of legislating a regime for the same, in the event of an impending disastrous event”.
Following the May 24 general election in which his Barbados Labour Party was swept to office, Hinkson further assured that the promised review was high on the list of priorities of the Mia Mottley-led Government, but said in the meantime it would to seek to enhance the current framework.
Hinkson also called on the local business community to play a greater role in ensuring the country’s preparedness saying, “disaster risk reduction is a shared responsibility and cannot only be governmental responsibility”.
“Traditionally the role of the private sector is that of generating economic activity, earning foreign exchange that underpins our financial stability and supporting the livelihoods of our citizens by providing sources of employment.
“[However] there is also that recognition of the importance of focusing and activating all the potential for action by all members of the Social Partnership during times of emergency and disaster,” Hinkson said, adding that “in the disaster management space we must expand our view of the private sector to embrace its potential to be a driver of resilience”.
He thanked the private sector for its work so far in providing assistance to the DEM through its sponsorship of several programmes, but cautioned that this was not the only function it could serve.
“The private sector can be the driving force in promoting resilience through mitigation of risk, by facilitating an environment that enables and empowers citizens to opt for risk reduction actions,” he said.