Emergency Agencies Prepared To Weather The Storm

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Emergency personnel and other key Government agencies have all signaled their readiness to face the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season.

Agencies outlined their levels of preparedness during the annual Hurricane Preparedness Forum, held under the chairmanship of Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, at the Savannah Hotel recently.

Nine named storms, four hurricanes and one major hurricane are predicted for this year???s season.

The state of preparedness of the various agencies, including the Welfare Department, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and emergency response agencies, all received a passing grade from the Minister and Director of the Department of Emergency Management, Judy Thomas.??

Ms. Thomas said that she felt confident with the levels of preparedness for this hurricane season, and the fact that members of the emergency services had activated their standing committees.??She stated that the agencies were now in a better position to represent the areas to which they were allocated, and assured the public that an improvement in the preparedness levels of stakeholders would be seen.

Ms. Thomas further noted that she was also pleased with the revision of the Standing Operations Procedures for a number of the emergency services and the level of planning that went into that process.?????A high percentage of the reports show that people are tackling the areas of concern in a very progressive way,??? the Director said, while noting that it augured well for the country going forward.

Among the preparedness plans for the season is the relocation of the National Emergency Operations Centre at DEM in the event of severe bad weather from its Warrens, St. Michael, office to the District ???A??? Police Station in Station Hill, St. Michael.??There are also plans to relocate the Holetown Police Station to Queen???s College and the District ???E??? Police Station to the Coleridge and Parry Secondary School in the event of an emergency.

Assistant Superintendent of Police, Bruce Rowe, gave those present the assurance that all generators at police stations across the island were functioning and standby generators were available in the event that relocation was necessary.??He added that lawmen were conducting internal training, and indicated that there was a need for a national simulation exercise to fully assess the state of readiness.

Chief Fire Officer, Wilfred Marshall, said his department was in a constant state of readiness, with fire officers receiving training in search and rescue and in handling hazardous materials.??The National Petroleum Corporation indicated that they were 87 per cent ready for the season, and had plans in place for the systematic shutdown of their systems should the island be threatened by a weather system.??

Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer, Joyce Leslie, also indicated that her Division???s plans had been reviewed and its network communication systems were functioning.

Among the recommendations coming out of the meeting was for a tabletop and simulation exercise to be conducted in order to fully assess the country???s state of readiness.??In addition, there were calls for continuous training among the members of the emergency forces and response agencies, and the training of search and rescue teams by specialists.

Mr. Brathwaite, who is also the Attorney General, told those present that he wished to have a national simulation exercise conducted, and urged parties to utilise the expertise of the Barbados Defence Force personnel in developing the tabletop exercise.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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