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Watching the wave

by Julia Rawlins-Bentham

movienightThe “tide is changing” in relation to tsunami education in Barbados, as more people show an active interest in learning about this natural hazard, and how they can best be prepared.

But, at the same time, Acting Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Dr. Lorna Inniss, said the country still has a long way to go in being fully prepared for such a disaster.

She was speaking to the media during a Moonlight Movie Night at the Gall Hill Hardcourt, St. John, last Saturday, during the screening of the movie The Impossible. The film was screened as part of the ongoing efforts to create a further awareness surrounding the tsunami hazard.

“I am blown away by the response tonight. It is amazing,” she said, noting that there were approximately 500 people in attendance. The acting director noted that while she expected people from the community to attend, she was amazed at the number of those who came out from other parishes.

Inniss pointed out that over the last six years, the response to public education and awareness for coastal hazards was usually low at public events unless such a crisis occurred internationally.

“But, this time we have not had a recent event in weeks or months, so it is wonderful to see so many people. They are engaged. The movie is just ideal for keeping their interest so I think it is a great evening,” she said.

However, she pointed out that work to educate the population about the tsunami hazard had to be done in phases.

“We had to begin first with understanding what a tsunami is, and whether or not Barbados was even vulnerable,” she explained.

Inniss said Barbados had passed that stage, and noted that technology had also assisted in creating awareness that the island was not immune to danger.

“For example, when the Japan [tsunami] occurred in 2011, people watched it on television. This was not something they were accustomed to before. They were not seeing these things rolling out, now they are because cable television is widespread and the Internet. You can see photos and video clips of what we are watching right here of people getting washed away. In a sense the international media, and the ready access to information has really helped the national programme quite a bit,” she stated.

As a result, she said, community groups were showing a greater interest in having lectures to find out more about the hazard so they could share the information with community residents.

Inniss outlined that while it was easy to have tsunami information incorporated into Geography and Social Studies classes at schools, the teachers still needed to be trained.

Noting that one private sector company along the coast was leading the way in organising a tsunami simulation, the coastal expert said it was action that should be adopted by other tourism and manufacturing driven companies, particularly those in vulnerable areas.

The movie night was organised by the Public Awareness and Education sub-committee of the Preparedness, Readiness and Resilience working group of the Technical Standing Committee on Coastal Hazard, approved by Cabinet as part of ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the island’s vulnerabilities to such disasters.

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