It is better to be placed on alert and be prepared, than for there to be no alert and be caught by surprise.
Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, empahsised this yesterday as he stood by a decision by the Barbados Meteorological Services (Met office) to issue a flood warning for Barbados, resulting in the closure of schools recently.
Weighing in on widespread criticism of the MET Office’s predictions and what was dubbed the unnecessary closure of schools after the expected rain and flooding did not materialise, Mr. Abrahams made it clear: “I will always take the decision to err on the side of caution, rather than try to make sure that I am right and cost somebody their life or significant damage to Barbados that could have been avoided.”
The Minister was at the time delivering the feature address during the relaunch of the Christ Church South District Emergency Organisation at the St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church Hall.
Mr. Abrahams explained that the flood warning was issued because there was “a massive system stalled off the east of Barbados. It came to an abrupt stop and it was there waiting”.
He added that all the modelling predicted that the system would affect Barbados in “a really bad way”, resulting in the warning being issued.
But, he continued, instead of being severely impacted, the system sheered into two, with some parts of it going north and the remainder going south.
“We could have taken the risk and not said anything until it was on us, at which point we would have had children trapped at school…, the public transportation system overwhelmed.
“[But], we took a decision based on the best information, but it will not always happen. We are doing the best, and at the forefront of our mind as a Government, as a Ministry, as the DEM [Department of Emergency Management], as a MET Office, is the safety of Barbados and Barbadians, the preservation of the life of Barbadians,” the Minister stressed.
He said that sometimes modelling changed but being prepared assisted residents and Government in capitalising on preplanning for the expected weather event, even if it has not yet been qualified as a watch or warning.
Mr. Abrahams explained that precipitation advisories were now being issued, which indicated that weather was coming, even if it did not qualify for a severe warning advisory to be issued.
“That allows us to kick start the garbage collection, the drain clearing, all those things, [and] be able to preposition equipment,” he indicated.
The Minister reminded the public that the hurricane season was still ongoing, and that they would receive an increase in alerts through the Barbados Government Information Service and the Met Office.
“We are trying to get information out to you a lot earlier. Sometimes it may seem like it was wrong, but the information comes out to give you sufficient time to deal with things,” he maintained.