Contingency planning and local knowledge have been identified as key elements in surviving a disaster.

And, members of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) and citizens were once again reminded of the importance of making contingency planning a part of their preparations.

Acting Deputy Director at the Department of Emergency Management, Captain Robert Harewood, said persons living in the Caribbean have accepted the risks associated with hazards such as hurricanes and earthquakes, to which the region is vulnerable.

???We must therefore prepare, for it is not a matter of if, but rather when we will be impacted,??? he said.??In addition, he pointed out that natural hazards were taking a heavier social and financial toll on communities, with recent hurricanes, floods and earthquakes causing more social displacements and dollar losses.

Mr. Harewood made these comments on Tuesday during his address at a Disaster Preparedness seminar in recognition of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, at the L.V. Harcourt Lewis Training Centre, in Belmont Road, St. Michael. The seminar was hosted by BARP in collaboration with the Department of Emergency Management and Talius Barbados.

He explained that contingency planning involved persons being vigilant and making assessments on their level of vulnerability; having disaster plans, a disaster supply kit, an evacuation plan, and knowing the shelters in their area and the best way to access them. Those present were also advised that they should have at least a three- day supply of food to last until rescuers arrived.?????There is no magic bullet for emergency planning,??? the Acting Deputy Director stressed.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the St. John District Emergency Organisation (DEO), John Haynes, stressed the importance of having local knowledge in preparing and making contingencies for disaster.??Highlighting St. John as an example, Mr. Haynes said the DEO conducted pre-impact tours, documented the vulnerable persons and where they were located and kept the information in a data base.

???We also formed a Community Disaster Response Team, where persons were trained in first aid, search and rescue, and communication using VHF radios,??? the Chairman pointed out. ??He noted this preparation proved useful after impacts from various weather events, including Tropical Storm Tomas which affected the island in 2010, as residents were able to assist themselves and neighbours until assistance arrived.

Mr. Haynes noted the St. John DEO, which covers the entire parish, was in the process of conducting another vulnerability assessment to see what changes occurred since Tomas, and also to see whether or not persons have rebuilt in unsafe areas.

Meanwhile, Operations Manager at Talius Barbados, Andrew Gittens, stressed the importance of having shutters on windows and doors to prevent the wind from entering, causing the roof to go. He further encouraged persons to have a ???safe room??? inside their homes.

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