Challenges along West Coast still being identified

The emergency management challenges along the west coast of Barbados are still being identified by one active district emergency organisation that says it is already reaping some success from mapping the area.

And as he admits that Barbados is not as prepared as it should be even since Tropical Storm Tomas, Chairman of the St. James Central DEO, Selwyn Brooks, has thrown out the offer to other DEOs that might be interested in doing similar disaster management maps and profiles of their areas to feel free to use the west coast model.

Brooks’ comments came today as his DEO, along with officers of the Fire Prevention Unit and the National Assistance Board, visited five homes in Redman’s Village, St. Thomas, to distribute smoke detectors to at risk and vulnerable elderly persons identified through one of the DEO’s studies of the constituency.

“We have increased our vulnerable list on the coast by seven persons,” Brooks said of the ongoing study of the stretch from Batts Rock to Paynes Bay, adding: “We have identified a number of trees that need to be trimmed close to these same vulnerable persons houses. We have gained three new members. We have identified approximately 10 fire hydrants and we have also identified a number of business entities that we need to go back to, like senior citizens’ homes, nursing homes and those sorts.

“We will go back to them last because that has to be a special profile. What you would be looking for in the community we will use that information to see how that will impact on the same senior citizens homes.”

He said the DEO had been able to form relationships with a number of different agencies like the Barbados Fire Service, with whom they would return to districts to mark fire hydrants for easy identification in times of emergency.

While Brooks said his organisation was not going to tell other DEOs how to operate, they would throw open the door for others to use the documented processes for all the studies and profiles they have done in St. James Central, to conduct similar operations with the hopes of creating an island-wide profile of vulnerabilities and challenges in times of emergency.

“What we do here in St. James, other DEOs are quite willing to come to our meetings, see what we are doing and if what we are doing they can implement somehow in their respective areas, we welcome that. It is not for us to tell them what they should be doing. I think that is the responsibility and the function of the Department of Emergency Management, .. but nevertheless, if the other DEOs, we’ve had a number of meetings where we have extended an invitation to them, some have come, some have not. Nevertheless, we will continue to do what we are doing.

“Everything that we do is documented. So if persons wanted to have information on what strategies and what programmes we have done over the last ten years they can get it. As a matter of fact this is our 10th anniversary and we are planning an exercise later during the year to showcase the training and level we have reached,” he said.

Noting that they were following a comprehensive disaster management programme to prepare the community, Brooks said: “I don’t think as a country we are as prepared as we ought to. I don’t want to apportion blame to any person, but what I will say is that Barbadians have become a little complacent over the years because it has been impacted. If we do not learn from what happened with Tomas, I don’t think we will ever learn anything, but as a response organisation we cannot give up…”

While he could not speak for the island, the chairman said he was sure that in St. James Central to be precise, their preparedness had improved.

“In St. James Central mechanisms have improved because persons are a little bit more aware of what they have to do. I am not saying I am satisfied that it is at the level it should be, but there has been some improvement. You will find now that whenever something happens in the community, we get a call… We work with the regulatory agencies, we have a very good relationship with Holetown Police, Arch Hall Fire Service, Black Rock Polyclinic, Warrens Polyclinic and by networking with these agencies it helps us fulfil what we are supposed to do,” he said. (LB)

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