The Role Of Constituency Councils In Disaster Preparedness

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The newly formed Constituency Councils continue to prove their worth within society, as they develop a number of programmes and projects aimed at empowering all Barbadians.

Currently, they are involved in the island’s disaster preparedness planning, affirming that the Constituency Council programme is an asset to the society.

Director of Constituency Empowerment, Kirk Humphrey, noted that the "councillors aim to gather as much information as possible on residents within their constituency, who may need assistance in the event of a disaster, particularly hurricanes."

He stated: "I like to think of our programme as being involved before the onset of a hurricane. Our councillors should know every street, every shop, every playing field, every elderly person, every vulnerable person, everything about their constituency…And so, by having that level of information from the start, then we will be ble to plan…And by knowing the people, and knowing their plight, we may be able to offer some solution to the problem before it arises."

Mr. Humphrey maintained that persons should visit their respective Constituency Council’s office and provide any relevant information, to ensure that they receive the necessary assistance. He acknowledged that of the proposed 30, only 18 Councils have been established to date; and he suggested that persons residing in these areas contact the Ministry of Social Care, or a nearby constituency council office, to present their information, which will be treated in a confidential manner.

The Constituency Empowerment Director disclosed that the Constituency Councils have arranged to provide the more vulnerable persons in the community with the necessary items to survive a disaster. He noted, however, that they would not allow persons to abuse this service, and advised anyone who is capable of obtaining their own supplies, to do so.

"It will not be a free for all…We are here to assist persons, who in the event of a hurricane, may not be in a position to help themselves," he asserted.

Although the Constituency Councils are playing a major role in disaster preparedness and management, they do not supersede the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), which is the leading organisation mandated to handle these matters. Mr. Humphrey noted that although the two organisations would be working closely together, their duties differ. He reported that the Constituency Councillors had begun identifying certain areas that might experience flooding, but would pass on that information to the DEM, which would then make the necessary arrangements to ensure the safety of residents.

He further revealed that some of the Councils had been undergoing training with the Disaster Emergency Organisations, and had developed public education programmes on disaster awareness for their residents. Their overall aim is to strengthen their ties with the DEM and play a bigger part in disaster preparedness. sharifa.medford@barbados.gov.bb

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