Scientists will play a critical role in evacuation planning in the event of a tsunami or other disasters.

Deputy Director of the Department of Emergency Management, Kerry Hinds, made this point as she addressed a press conference to launch Caribe Wave 2013 at the Atlantis Hotel yesterday.

"The inputs to the whole evacuation planning process are the science in terms of alienating where the hazard zones are versus the safe zones. That is the first part of the process. If we are going to evacuate an area you have to know where you are evacuating to; that is why the scientists are very important to this aspect of evacuation planning because it has to be based on scientific data," she stressed.

Ms. Hinds explained that Barbados was working towards having a national preparedness evacuation plan in place. And, she pointed out, that while the science was important, the training of emergency responders at the national level and within the community to assist the public with any evacuation that may be warranted, was just as essential.

She added that in order to improve national preparedness, individual preparedness also needed to be enhanced. "That is where it starts. If all of us are ready then the country as a whole is able to take on any sort of hazard regardless," she stated.

To achieve this, Ms. Hinds stressed that public awareness was a critical part of the process. She explained that the whole idea was to empower both tourists and Barbadians to help themselves. "You may have a case where it is in the middle of the night and you are forced to evacuate, [but] you can’t necessarily wait for a notice. Having the information, knowing the tell-tale signs, and knowing what to do when you hear the rumbling [will save lives]," she said.

She told stakeholders and members of the media that great attention was being paid to developing a comprehensive public awareness programme as it related to general tsunami preparedness and also evacuation.

This, Ms. Hinds reiterated, was vital as everyone would be a part of the process in the event of a disaster. "We are targeting all sectors of the community. It is not just emergency responders, but persons in the wider public service and private sector as well as the public.

That is why we are also encouraging the media to be a part of the process in actually conveying the messages to the wider population on what to do if or when they have to evacuate," she said.

Ms. Hinds also noted that in the coming weeks public awareness material would be issued to alert people about the hazards, the signs they should watch for and the actions to take.

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