Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, speaking at a press conference to mark the start of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane season on Saturday. (A.Husbands/BGIS)

Cabinet has approved a National Shutdown and Reactivation Policy Framework and Standard Operating Procedures for Barbados.

This approved policy will see members of the Royal Barbados Police Force enforcing the staggered shutdown of Barbados if the island is threatened by a disaster.

Speaking during a press conference to mark the start of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season at the Department of Emergency Management on Saturday, Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, explained the staggered approach would ensure that key elements of national operations were allowed to maintain an effective level of operation for as long as possible, while facilitating the systematic closure of non-essential operations.

This, he said, would see private sector agencies such as utility companies, supermarkets, general and hardware stores and telecommunication providers, remaining open to provide a service to the public for as long as possible before any impending strike.

The Home Affairs Minister identified schools and daycare centres as being among the first entities that should be closed.

“We have to protect our children and get them off the streets [because] that frees up public transportation for adults,” he said.

He added that non-essential operations in both the public and private sectors would be next to close.

“We know that this has been a problem in the past in terms of the private sector closing. It is stated as a policy in this manual that private sector entities and companies shall close their operations taking into account the provision of their disaster management or business continuity plans,” Mr. Hinkson stated.

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He added that the closure of private sector entities should take into account the security and operational procedures, and the welfare of the employees and the need for them to take their own domestic precautions.

The Minister stressed that staff not essential to the private sector’s disaster plans should be released early unless private arrangements were made for transporting them home safely.

“The reality is that all like now the public of Barbados should be stocking up on their food supplies and tinned stuff, because this is the start of the hurricane season. You don’t wait until you hear bad weather is coming to go and buy stuff. You should have them all like now and be prepared because at some stage supermarket staff have to go home to look after their own domestic circumstances,” he pointed out.

However, while noting that the Royal Barbados Police Force was mandated to enforce the shutdown procedures through a policy of Cabinet, Mr. Hinkson said government now had to move towards giving it the supporting legislative effect.

However, he stressed that whether it was a fast food restaurant or supermarket opening late, there was a risk and police would have the authority to enforce the policy.

“We urge those in the decision-making authority in businesses and the private sector to be caring for their workers because that has to be taken into account,” the Minister urged.

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