As the nation prepares to wait out a tropical storm, there remains no policy on a national shutdown or all-clear – but the Government says it’s getting closer to a new protocol.
The national shutdown 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 an all-clear was issued before all damage assessments were in from district emergency officials, amid pressure from the business community to reopen sooner after the storm’s passage.
In June of last year, the DEM promised to revise the plan to include the timeframe within which businesses could close in order that workers can reach home safely, as well as facilitate traffic management.
A protocol would also include the 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.
It was revealed last June that the latest review was carried out three years ago, and that discussions were ongoing to see what areas there were need for improvement.
Asked about the shutdown policy today as he toured two popular supermarkets, Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland gave no indication as to how advanced those talks were, but said his ministry had managed to work with stakeholders to “come up with a list of goods that are critical in terms of hurricane preparedness.
As thousands of Barbadians stocked up on supplies in preparing for Tropical Storm Kirk, Sutherland revealed his ministry has partnered with the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) and supermarket operators to ensure that some basic requirements were met during a storm.
Following a stakeholders meeting two weeks ago a list of critical items for hurricane preparedness was created and was currently being circulated to supermarket operators, he told journalists after touring two of the island’s major supermarkets – Emerald City and Popular Discount.
“The Department of Commerce and the Department of Emergency Management would say we have a plan with respect to what we should have in terms of minimum supplies and a formal list is being circulated to all of the supermarket owners and I must say that the Prime Minister, I must complement her on the initiative on bringing together all the key players with respect to hurricane preparedness,” he said.
“We have to prepare for any eventualities in case that a hurricane strikes this country. We must have a minimum supply of goods that can be distributed to all the consumers and people within this country,” he said.
Sutherland said he was looking forward to another meeting next week in order to review the island’s readiness and discuss other measures that were needed to be put in place.
“So there is indeed a plan,” the minister said.
Throughout the day, supermarkets reported an absence of the usual hustle and bustle of shopping for a storm.
But some shoppers told Barbados TODAY they were taking nothing for granted.
“What I do I look for more of the [tinned] stuff because you don’t know what the challenges are that you will get in getting other food stuff that may require preparation for the fire – cooking and using the stove- you don’t know what damages you can get so you use tin stuff that you can move around with,” Arundell Forde told Barbados TODAY as he shopped at the Emerald City supermarket in St Philip.
Forde warned Barbadians to ensure they were fully prepared even if the country would not get a direct hit.
“I know people feel that this is a small storm but as I was telling others, there is always the unguarded moment, you might say it is a small storm and that is the one that might give you the surprise. So you have to prepare for the unknown. So that is what I am doing now,” he said.
Managing Director of Popular Discount supermarket Bertram Hall told Barbados TODAY his store had been prepared for any influx of shoppers.
“Definitely when there is something happening we always have the hurricane items . . . always ready and we are looking forward to be servicing those people who are preparing for the storm that is coming,” he said.
Shoppers at the Cherish supermarket chain in Bridgetown said their shopping consisted of basic preparations by stocking up on dry food and large quantities of water.
Shopper Renaldo Sargeant told Barbados TODAY he was simply heeding the warning of a pending tropical storm.
“I buy a few things . . . I will make sure I am indoors and make sure I have water. Yes, from the time I heard the warning I said that I would come in town and get a few things,” he said.
Gail Gravesande advised against over-purchasing, encouraging residents instead to focus on ensuring they had important documents stored securely and they had canned goods and water.
“As preparing for any storm, you have to make sure you have your documents in a little overnight bag. Yes, you must have dried goods but you don’t buy a whole set of things because if the hurricane come and wash away everything you still don’t have anything,” she said.
“So just pack an overnight bag with your travel documents and biscuits and some water but don’t go over your budget for no hurricane,” she urged.