People are the key factor in responses to disasters, and the more they are trained and organised into groups, the better chances communities have of surviving catastrophes with minimal loss of life and damage to property.
That was the message from the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) to St Michael South residents at the Graydon Sealy School yesterday. DEM sought to motivate persons to form an interconnected voluntary organisation of first responders to disasters and to become vigilant neighbours who can recognise and prevent circumstances that can, by themselves, either cause a catastrophe or make such calamities worse.
These groups are Disaster Emergency Organisations within DEM.
District Emergency Officer Selwyn Brooks received a favourable response to his presentation on the need for people to become involved as many signed up as volunteers immediately after the meeting.
“Just as in Barbados we have come to accept the slogan that Tourism is everybody’s business because we derive our economic stability from the tourist dollar, I think the time has come for Barbadians to coin a similar phrase and realise that disaster management now has to be everybody’s business,” the DEO said.
He advised that if Barbadians do not put disaster management on the same scale as tourism “the high level of complacency that we experience today is going to hurt us eventually when we are impacted”.
Brooks contended that an impact could be felt, especially from a storm, despite the erroneous self-comforting belief that ‘God is a Bajan’ because disasters have, in recent years, hit sister islands whose residents also thought God was a national of their territory.
With the aid of photographs he identified a number of negligent practices in the district that put residents at risk and could lead to disasters or make disruptions worse.
Among matters covered in the hour-and-a-half presentation followed by a question-and-answer session were blocked drains and areas congested by dumping around area pumps that could worsen flooding emergencies; some places overgrown by bush to affect the ability of the land to hold water; untrimmed trees that threaten life and property; and low-hanging utility poles.
He also spoke on the importance of training so volunteers would be able to respond in an efficient manner regardless of the disaster.
“Vulnerabilities come in more than one form and shape. A vulnerable community could be a flood-prone community, that has one road in and the same road out,” he said, adding that community residents should, “identify those hazards that comprise your community. Find out what are, and who are at risk… your housing stock, people who live in it, the disabled persons”.
This knowledge comes from training that DEM offers to better position communities to respond to emergencies. The DEO stressed the need for people to come forward with a self-help approach as Government officials along with emergency relief providers are incapable of doing all the necessary work ranging from prevention to response. (GA)