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ag not satisfied with effectiveness of emergency disaster planning message

The Minister of Home Affairs has told the Department of Emergency Management he’s unhappy with the effectiveness of its disaster preparedness and mitigation message to the wider Barbadian public.

Addressing today’s inauguration of the Emergency Management Advisory Council at Hilton Barbados Resort, Adriel Brathwaite expressed dissatisfaction that the message was not reaching the average person.

“I don’t feel we are doing a good enough job in penetrating down to the ordinary man in the street to how important it is for us to plan to be able to respond in the event of an emergency,” Brathwaite said.

“So I must accept,” he added, “some responsibility for the fact that after 18 months I don’t believe that we are where we should be, but I do intend to rectify that in the very near future.”

He insisted that the country needed to reach the stage where the ordinary person was persuaded that emergency disaster planning was part of their daily life. The minister of homes affairs also stated that the only way Barbados would reach such a stage of planning, was if the island was struck by a disaster.

“And I don’t apologise for it,” he declared.

Brathwaite, who is also Attorney-General, referred to Chile as an example of a country which, having been hit by a disaster, was now able to effectively respond to such catastrophic events. He also suggested that had the earthquake that struck Haiti impacted Chile, it would not have caused the same widespread damage.

Brathwaite said he would not want in his lifetime or his children’s, for someone to say Barbados would not have been in a position like Haiti if it had better prepared.

“I would not want that to happen. So therefore, I am charging you, and I am charging all of us as Barbadians, indeed let us embrace a comprehensive disaster management strategy. I have made a presentation to the Cabinet of Barbados. I am going to invite the DEM to do a refresher and make a presentation to the Cabinet of Barbados, so that we continue to be sensitised to the importance of disaster risk reduction,” the minister added.

He suggested that the Government needed to spend the money and time on disaster risk reduction, so the savings could be achieved in the long run and that the country would be better able to respond.

Brathwaite thanked the private sector for working with the Government in this area of disaster management and said he looked forward to its continued relationship in making Barbados ready. He also disclosed that an institutional study on the Department of Emergency Management had been done and the findings should reach his ministry next month.

With this in hand, the Government minister noted that, he would then be able to determine what changes were required at the DEM. Having expressed his concern about the present location of the department, Brathwaite also announced that a site at Lower Estate had been identified for the construction of a new headquarters. He was unable to say when work would start on such a facility, due to the Government’s tight financial position.

However, he indicated that some international funding agencies were interested in assisting in this regard and negotiations would have to be initiated. The department is also to get additional staff. (EJ)

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