Director of the Department of Emergency Management, Judy Thomas. (FP)

Early predictions for the 2013 hurricane season offer little comfort for Barbados, and all entities, both in the public and private sectors, are being urged to step up their level of preparedness.

Reviewing 2012 and giving an overview of the 203 season, Director of the Department of Emergency Management, Judy Thomas, warned that: "The prognosis does not bring comfort for 2013 based on climate change and the frequency and intensity of storms." She added that it was important that everyone was prepared for what the season could bring.

Ms. Thomas made these comments to representatives from the island’s emergency services, utility companies, telecommunication providers, radio stations, media houses and Government departments during the annual Public Information and Education Standing Committee of Emergency Services meeting at the DEM’s Warrens, St. Michael headquarters today.

Ms. Thomas said each entity should see how their agency could better facilitate the dissemination of information. "Look to [see] how your unit can use the public education group [to get the information out]," she said, stressing the dissemination of information was the responsibility of the entire committee.

The Director added that the DEM public awareness month was expected to be launched next month to coincide with the start of the hurricane season. She noted that discussions were also ongoing with the National Cultural Foundation to infuse the hurricane preparedness messages in the context of Crop-Over.

However, she urged those present to look at case studies of storms overseas and pay attention to what was done prior, during and after a storm. "Their mechanisms jump start in the pre-disaster environment," she said.

Ms. Thomas noted that with Super Storm Sandy last year, the different layers of government responded and executed their duties. "But Barbados has [only] one layer," she said.

She disclosed that legislation to make disaster management the primary focus of every agency was on the cards for Barbados.

During this morning’s meeting a number of agencies indicated that they had already reviewed their hurricane preparedness plans and were looking to see how they could improve on what occurred in years gone by and partner with other companies to get the messages out.

Meanwhile, the media, particularly radio stations, were called upon to engage members of the public in preparing for a storm or hurricane. Ms. Thomas explained that the DEM wanted to learn more about the public’s challenges and concerns as they related to hurricane preparedness.

"We need something to focus on the preparedness of the households. We want to know their challenges and concerns and why they are not preparing," she said.

By the end of the day’s meeting, some radio stations gave the undertaking to see how best they could accommodate requests to better engage the public during the coming season.

Acting Chief Information Officer of the Barbados Government Information Service, Sharon Lynch, said the Bay Street, St. Michael organisation’s role was to liaise with key agencies to keep everyone informed during the hurricane season.

However, she outlined that one of main challenges faced was that people did not seem to be taking the messages seriously, and she noted that disaster preparedness was such an important issue, that if one method did not work, new ways needed to be found and implemented.


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