"June too soon, July stand by, August a must, September remember and October all over." This popular expression, once uttered by both children and adults to signal the arrival of the hurricane season, no longer holds true given today’s unpredictable climate conditions.?? With Barbados and the rest of the region experiencing increased hurricane activity and severe flooding, not to mention other global phenomena, this particular period should no longer be taken lightly.??
As a result of the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Tomas in October last year, Barbadians have been advised "to take it seriously [hurricane preparation] and to get ready for any eventuality."
This strong message has come from programme officer at the Department of Emergency Management, Simon Alleyne, who stressed that Barbadians need to take steps to prepare themselves during this hurricane season, as this country is prone to being affected by any type of tropical storm or hurricane.
"The habit of most Barbadians is to wait until June to start to prepare for the season but we at the Department of Emergency Management don’t want that, as we want persons to have a whole idea of disaster preparedness throughout the year.?? So, … we want individuals to assess their homes and to make arrangements to have those large trees on their properties cut, and [also] to try and keep the drains in front of their respective homes clear, so as to reduce flooding," he underlined.
Although it battered the island as a tropical storm, Tomas then went on to wreak havoc in the neighbouring islands of St. Vincent and St. Lucia as a category 2 hurricane.??
According to the DEM officer, despite regular notifications Barbadians still seemed to be taking the message rather lightly.
"Most persons sometimes wait until the last minute to go to the gas station or to the various supermarkets to buy goods and supplies and the problem with that is … their fridge may already be pretty well stocked with food and yet they go to the supermarket to buy more food, which most of the time requires refrigeration.?? And, that always poses a problem," he said.
Another common mistake, Mr. Alleyne pointed out, was individuals who still ventured outside, thinking that once there was a lull in the storm, or the eye of the storm had passed over, they could go outdoors. "What actually happens is that they go out in the storm and they can lose their lives, or they could be harmed by flying debris because during the passing of the eye it becomes calm, but then quite suddenly the wind can start to blow hard; and of course, after the storm we tend to make the mistake of venturing outside, although persons would have heard an All Clear, they don’t go out with caution.?? For example, they don’t wear proper boots or shoes and, as a result, they can get sick ??or you may have a situation with downed power lines that may still be active, they may shock persons, so that is very important to note," he indiated.
Emphasising that the strength of every home was the roof, the programme officer noted that its weakness could compromise the whole structure, since the house automatically became vulnerable to water damage.
"People need to assess their roofs first of all, and you would find that one of the biggest culprits undermining a roof is termites and that’s why…. you should be looking at the roof to see if rafters or parts of the roof are still stable and not termite infested.?? Also, with regards to windows, persons sometimes used scotch tape to put on the windows to stop the glass from shattering.?? The best thing to do is to have shutters made for your home, preferably plywood; it may be of considerable cost, but once you store these shutters properly they will last for every hurricane season once constructed correctly.
"Another thing too, is the drains in front of your home.?? People need to clear the drains at least once a month, especially leading up to the hurricane season so they wouldn’t be a build-up of debris, particularly those who garden and use the blower to blow the grass and tree clippings.?? We, at the Department of Emergency Management advise the public that if a drain is in front of your property or a well is not too far away – clear the grill of the well to allow the water [free flow], this simple act could prevent severe blockage and ultimately flooding," he emphasised.