Minister of Home Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams. (fP)

Barbados is now better prepared to deal with the effects of a natural disaster.

And both Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and Minister of Home Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, have commended agencies across the public and private sectors for their commitment to ensuring the island is prepared to manage a natural disaster, such as a storm.

“For the last five hours, we’ve been in a meeting under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister.  We’ve had a full examination and discussion on the state of preparedness of Barbados for [Tropical Storm] Gonzalo ….  and to fine tune any preparations and make any last-minute adjustments to our plan,” Minister Abrahams said, while addressing a press conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, yesterday.

He highlighted the fact that there was a significant difference in the island’s state of readiness now, as compared with two years ago, and said that Government had spent a significant amount of money in infrastructure and equipment to develop the country’s overall preparedness.

“Two years ago, we were completely unprepared for any category of storm. For example, the [Barbados] Water Authority had no generation capacity; the Ministry of Transport and Works had no significant equipment with which to clear roads.  Everything was in a mess. The meeting today was a lot more productive. Most of the things that we need to have in place, have been [put] in place ….  It was an entirely different environment…,” the Minister stated.

According to the Minister, the following improvements have been made over the last two years:

  • $10 million has been injected into the Ministry of Public Works for purchasing equipment.
  • 49 out of the 50 major water courses across Barbados were cleared, with the last one in the process of being cleared.
  • The prepositioning of transport vehicles such as buses, heavy duty vehicles and road clearing equipment to various points across the island has already started.
  •  Arrangements have been made for the transportation of vulnerable persons to shelters, or medical facilities.
  • The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) now has 14 emergency generators installed; eight preordered generators are to be used at the pumping stations; and the Wastewater and Sewage Divisions have full generation capacity.
  • All 104 community tanks across the island are to be filled prior to the impact of the storm, and they are to be locked.
  • The BWA has constructed three new reservoirs, because in preparation for the last system, last year, three reservoirs were reported to be entirely compromised, and would not withstand a Category One hurricane.  The new reservoirs would increase the water storage capacity of the BWA.
  • The Barbados Light and Power (BL&P) has done a strategic placement of response vehicles throughout the country. Tree trimming is still in progress and the BL&P remains available to answer or respond to reports, until such time as the country is shut down.
  • All Category One shelters are operational.
  • The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has moved from four hours of water reserves to four days of water reserves.
  • Fishermen have taken advantage of the haul out facilities, or are trying to move their boats to safe harbour.
  • All of the critical Government sites have IT redundancy.
  • The Royal Barbados Police Force and the Barbados Defence Force are ready.
  • All of the organisations and organs of government are ready.
  • An assessment was done on fuel supplies and the pre-deployment of critical assets for clearing road and restoration of utility services have been completed.
  • Plans for food distribution and securing water have been completed.

“All of this has been put in place. As I said, this is a completely different picture this year from last year. The critical message for us to take away from this, is that the country is considerably better off in terms of preparations than it was two years ago, and it is now critical that individuals and households have time to complete their own preparations.

“I can’t urge Barbadians enough….  So, any preparation that you do now is not going to be in vain. It is better that you take the preparations now that you can, than for the storm to redevelop or change course and everybody be left scrambling after the fact,” Minister Abrahams emphasised.

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