A direct hit from a natural disaster similar to Hurricane Dorian which devastated the Bahamian islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, would have deadly implications for some low-income Barbadian communities, whose residents should be moved out well before impact.
And while Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson has backed recent calls for mandatory building codes, he fears such a process could take over a decade to fully implement.
In the meantime, he told Barbados TODAY some communities would need to be fully evacuated if a major hurricane threatened the island.
“The data shows that these events impact those who are deemed to be poor and have very poor infrastructure and you do have pockets of that in this country. So one of the first things you have to look at is how many of these pockets we have, how many people are there and what is going to be the demand on our services because these individuals are likely to be affected and plan for that,” Jackson said after a receiving a donation from the Ocean Hotels for Bahamian citizens affected by Hurricane Dorian.
“You can save those lives and then we can deal with the infrastructural recovery thereafter, because you very well might lose homes in those particular pockets, but there is no reason why you should lose people. Once we know you are in an inferior housing structure, it is easier for us to evacuate you so you can ride out the storm for a day and go back in, rather than lose your life there. That is what I see in Barbados. Those pockets are potentially your first call,” Jackson suggested.
The CDEMA executive admitted he was a “hard marker” when assessing disaster-related issues and stressed regional Governments still had a lot to do in the interest of their citizens’ protection.
“What we have to do is ensure every building is built to code and that we look at the design of the roofing and ensure we are putting in the type of roof design with shorter eves and the type of pitch that will allow the wind forces to go over and reduce pressure on the roofing and there are also some tried and true practices that we have gone away from,” he indicated.
Jackson however warned that a country’s true level of readiness was not just dependent on the State.
He pointed to the Bahamian Government, which, according to him had taken all reasonable steps to protect its citizens.
“We have to become a lot more psychologically ready for the fact that whilst we have been fortunate not to be impacted by anything of any magnitude, we live in a part of the world where these types of things are commonplace and there are changing signatures of tropical storms and extreme weather events.
“As a people we have to recognise that part of what grants us the beauty that we use for recreation and our economic benefit is also part of what exposes us to the vagaries of natural hazards and events and plan for that,” Jackson said.