DEO members looking over some information during Saturday’s Exercise at Queen’s College. (GP)

The community response to disasters in Barbados has been greatly enhanced with 29 out of the 30 District Emergency Organisations now operational.

And, Director of the Department of Emergency Management, Kerry Hinds, is remaining optimistic that the number of community volunteers across the country would increase to approximately 50,000 overtime.

She made these comments following the opening ceremony of the radio simulation, Exercise Montgomery, which engaged 104 DEO members at Queen’s College, last Saturday.

“It (50,000 volunteers) may seem like a lot, but as we always say, emergency management is everybody’s business, and we want everybody to play their part,” the Director said.

She added that community volunteers were important to the National Emergency Management System because they augmented the resources of the national level agencies, such as the DEM, the Barbados Fire Service, the Royal Barbados Police Force, and the Ministry of Transport, Works and Water Resources.

In addition, Ms. Hinds noted that various memoranda of understanding with other agencies and bodies, such as the Roving Response Team, DEOs and other entities, supplemented the resources available at the national level.

“In terms of grading the system, I always say there is room for improvement. And there is definite room for improvement in terms of numbers, in terms of resources that we definitely need to input into the system. There is also room for improvement in terms of our development and our exercising, in our review and updating of our plans and procedures. We are in an ever constant state of continuous process improvement and standard setting. So … when I reflect on the status system as the Director of the Department of Emergency Management … I don’t think we are at 100 per cent, but I think we are in an excellent position going forward in terms of our state of readiness,” she stated.

The Director stated that Saturday’s activity was about ensuring that Barbados was ready for any eventuality, particularly as the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season was predicted to be active.

Ms. Hinds told members of the media that over the years, the DEM had injected resources into the community disaster management programme, which resulted in a number of public and private sector agencies coming on board to assist the department in ensuring that the community response effort was resilient and went “from strength to strength”.

That, she said, would include ensuring that plans and procedures were in place along with resources to effect a response.

Ms. Hinds also expressed hope that by year end, all 30 of the DEOs would be up and running, with functioning and active members.

“You would appreciate that as we go through various cycles in life, you have ebbs and flows. And sometimes you have a spurt in terms of the number of persons interested and a part of the effort, and sometimes that lull. That is all a part of volunteer engagement, but today I’m very happy to see that we do have 29 active District Emergency Organisations here,” Ms. Hinds said.

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