Scramble mode once more

Satellite imagery showing position of tropical depression in relation to Barbados (red circle) at 4:30 pm this afternoon.

by Roy G. Ward

During the past seven months, I have used my columns to raise awareness on all hazards, while at the same time bringing to the forefront the fact that the 2012 Hurricane Season was at our doorstep.

In maintaining the theme of preparedness, I had hoped that there would be some indication on the part of the average Barbadian, that communities were taking the public notices and the media warnings on preparedness seriously, and changed the firmly ensconced habit of “last minute preparation”. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the general community approach to impending Tropical Depression #5, which is currently projected to pass close to the north of Barbados, it would appear that Barbados still prefers to operate in “scramble mode”, and further reinforces a long held theory that complacency is very much a part of our behaviour.

In the hope that there are those who are willing to take some advice, I have prepared some tips that may be of benefit during this weekend. Now is the time to examine your shutters for windows. Ensure accessibility and complete any repairs you may think necessary. Plan to secure the property in the event that you have to evacuate. Make sure doors and windows are locked to keep out the “uninvited” if you must leave.

As a flooding precaution, clear the drains around the property. Secure the solar water panels on the roof, as they can be blown off in extreme conditions. Remove all lose materials from around the property, including outdoor lights and fixtures, plant pots, patio furniture. These items will be projectiles that can damage both your home and the neighbour’s.

Developed a disaster preparedness kit and include some basic items in that kit: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing, bedding, tools, (medical prescriptions, sanitary items, dentures, contact lenses, hearing aids important documents). Store the kit in a convenient place known to all family members, with a smaller version of the same kit in the trunk of your car. Rotate your stored water if you have not done so in the past six months. Check on the quality of your stored canned food.

If your property has been damaged but still habitable, do not heat or attempt to cook any item in an enclosed confined wooden environment. If you must heat or cook items, I would suggest that you do so in the concrete environment of the bathroom, if it is still standing. While you may think that this location will be unsanitary, consider the alternative.

Please secure important family documents such as title deeds, tax records, utility bills, birth, marriage and death certificates, driver’s licence, passport, insurance policies, NIS and National Identification Card, health and medical records, bank/credit card account numbers, and safety deposit box keys should be secured and kept in waterproof containers or Zip-Lock Bags. Please include the cell phone and charger. Also get a car charger for the phone. With the power off, ATMs will not work, therefore you will need to have secured some cash before the weekend. You will also need to conduct an inventory of valuable household goods. This information will be required for insurance claims after the event.

Store all medicines in waterproof containers. If the medicine must be refrigerated, you can use an ice cooler but keep the items separated as you will also need to use the ice for other purposes. Asthma patients should keep their inhalers with them at all times and confirm their supply for at least 30 to 45 days).

Respiratory patients may also have personal oxygen tanks as part of their regular treatment routine. These tanks will require refilling before the weekend. For cardiac care patients, pack your hypertension, high blood pressure medicine, and once again confirm your supply for at least 30 to 45 days). For Diabetes, protect your supply of insulin and ensure your supply for at least 30 to 60 days – including syringes.

If you have a first aid kit please include sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes, 2″ and 4″ sterile gauze pads, 2″ and 3″ sterile roller bandages, triangular bandages, assorted safety pins, Latex gloves, Sunscreen, Scissors, tweezers, needle and thread. Using moistened towelettes for cleaning will reduce water usage. An antiseptic, thermometer, tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant, this will assist in alleviating chaffing in infants. Non-prescription drugs and antibiotic creams, ointments for cuts and bruises, iodine, rubbing alcohol, aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever. Anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, and a laxative should also be included. Cough medicines that you are familiar with or recommended by a doctor may also be included.

While no one can force anyone to prepare, I would sincerely hope that my pleas for preparedness will be heeded before it is too late. Even with a tropical depression in the area, we are still planning for this weekend’s final events of Crop-Over Festival 2012. Our emphasis is on feting, drinking, and dancing and not securing our homes and families. We are still a society that is determined to continue to practise “last minute preparation” and this is very unfortunate. Many lessons should have been learnt from the passing of Tropical Storm Tomas.

The Government admitted that they were a little slow in alerting the public and internally responding to the threat. Homes in many communities experienced structural damages that could have been avoided, but thankfully, no lives were lost and injuries were low.

Whether or not this tropical depression affects us is irrelevant. What must be realised is that there are still other systems that will develop before the end of the 2012 hurricane season, and we should therefore plan and prepare for them as necessary.

Pre-planning ensures efficient preparation to an event; pre-planning ensures efficient response to any emergency scenario; pre-planning ensures that injuries and fatalities are kept to a minimum. It is still not too late to plan and prepare.

* Roy Ward is a veteran first responder with a professional background in handling dangerous chemicals.

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