COVID-19 or not, prepare for the hurricane season!
That is the strong advice of Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, as he urged residents to prepare for what is being predicted as an above average season this year.
He made this appeal as he addressed a press conference hosted by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) to mark the start of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season at the General Post Office on Cheapside, St. Michael yesterday.
Director of the DEM, Kerry Hinds; Acting Director of the Barbados Meteorological Services, Sabu Best; and Acting Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Anton Best, also supported the call for preparedness as they addressed the press conference which was streamed live.
Mr. Hinkson said that as the official June 1 start of the season drew nearer, the reality was that Barbados would be dealing with two threats – that of COVID-19 and of a potential natural disaster.
However, he stated: “We in Barbados cannot just lay down and say that we are not preparing, that we do not have the financial or economic resources now that 40,000 plus more of our people are without a job, and have sought relief from Government financially, either in the form of unemployment benefits, welfare, [from the] Mitigation Unit. We have to prepare.
“We have no choice but to do our best as a country, at the level of Government, which we are doing. We will continue to encourage our communities, our families and our individual persons to prepare for any eventuality in terms of the possibility of the advent of hurricanes affecting Barbados and the wider region this year.”
At the level of Government, the Minister said various departments came together for planning sessions which examined all possible preparations for a hurricane or severe weather system confronting the island.
These preparations, he said, included clearing gullies; increased generational capacity for water and electrical supplies; improving the physical infrastructure of hurricane shelters, improvements in the early warning system to give earlier notifications to Barbadians of any system that may be coming; strengthening of the District Emergency Organizations and the signing of Memorandums of Understanding with retailers for the supply of food in the aftermath of disaster.
But, Mr. Hinkson warned, efforts at the government level could come to naught if there was no preparation or planning at the individual, community, family, and household level. “Therefore, the overriding message here this morning…is that we as a people have to prepare,” he maintained.
The Home Affairs Minister urged residents to have their personal plans which addressed issues of potential flooding; a place of shelter in case an evacuation is needed; and a plan of action to care for the elderly or disabled.
He also urged persons to have adequate insurance for their homes where possible.