June 1 and the start of the hurricane season may be a distance memory for most, especially with virtually no activity over the last two months.
But in rolls September and out goes that false sense of security that we have nothing to worry about.
September, historically the most active month of the hurricane season, is staying true to its billing and now Hurricane Issac is churning its way towards the Lesser Antilles, elsewhere there is Florence and Helene.
The Barbados Meteorological Services forecast is that the Category 1 Issac, which is projected to strengthen, will pass to the north of the Barbados between Wednesday and Thursday.
And while on its current track blessed Barbados will avoid a direct hit, we simply cannot afford to take chances.
This was the message Prime Minister Mia Mottley sounded far and wide as she summoned the island’s emergency response teams and other key stakeholders to a meeting at Government Headquarters yesterday.
“I know we like to say that God is a Bajan and I do believe that God is a Bajan, but we have to prepare because God helps those who helps themselves and we need to help ourselves and we need to make sure that we learn from the lessons of the past.
“Barbadians cannot take anything for granted. This is not about panicking anybody, it is just about doing the basics,” the prime minister said.
All of us would do well to listen given the frequency and unpredictability of weather systems.
It’s been easy to become complacent during the hurricane season because we haven’t been hit with a big one since Hurricane Janet on September 22, 1955.
But we are not without other powerful reminders. Just last year, we were all looking on at Dominica and Barbuda among others in shock and some tears after the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, both Category 5 systems.
Our two neighbours are yet to fully recover. The disruption that citizens continue to endure should force us to redouble our efforts to create a more resilient Barbados.
Even without the direct impact of a hurricane, we are too familiar with heavy flooding and the number of houses that lose their roofs and are compromised otherwise by tropical storms.
We take note of the Government’s proactive plan to clean up flood-prone areas to mitigate any losses and hope this will become a habit even outside of the hurricane season.
One of the most important preventive measures is cleaning up debris and private contractors – Brathwaite’s Construction, Infra and C.O Williams [Construction], who came to rescue of Government to clear drains should be lauded.
Nevertheless, much more can be done to mitigate potential risks, and getting ready is a job for the entire community.
Building owners, including the Government, should repair any damaged premises straightaway. And if they are unable to do so, they should clean and secure them so that they won’t create avoidable hazards during a storm.
Government also has a raft of other responsibilities to handle, including preparing the territory’s shelters. A major concern is the provision of accommodation of safe shelter for the homeless who are often left huddled on the streets in The City exposed to the element.
Authorities, too, must ensure that communication systems are working well and keeping the public apprised of the actual status of preparations, among other things.
Additionally, homes, businesses and public agencies alike should have a disaster plan in place, as officials have urged in recent days.
Indeed, it is not the time to panic and start boarding up our windows. But it definitely is time to make sure we have the hurricane basics – batteries, canned goods, flashlights, bottled water – on hand. Hopefully, the bigger issues have been taken care of like checking the condition of the roof, or buying shutters or trimming trees – long before now. But it may not be too late. Not yet.
We hope that Issac will pass without any major impact to Barbados or our Caribbean neighbours, but we shouldn’t fool around.
There is no need to panic. There is every need to prepare.