Don’t let your guard down, CDEMA boss warns
Despite a somewhat quiet hurricane season so far, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson is warning Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean not to be complacent.
Up until now, Barbados has escaped any major storms and Hurricane Earl, which formed in the western Caribbean on August 2, 2016, and made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near Belize City, Belize early in the morning on August 4, is the only hurricane to affect the Caribbean so far this year.
Jackson told Barbados TODAY this was no reason for Barbadians or Caribbean residents to be lax.
“We have heard this, [that] God is a Bajan; God is a Trini; God maybe a Jamaican; He maybe an Anguillan; He is all of us but that doesn’t mean that we are not going to be impacted by the vagaries of natural disasters.
“The decision as to whether we are caught up in an emergency response or dealing with a disaster is going to be very much built around how much at the household level, at the community level and nationally we are vigilant . . . build our capacity to respond and our ability to prepare for these events as well as our efforts to mitigate and reduce the impact on our society,” the CDEMA boss explained.
Jackson pointed to a number of out-of-season storms that have impacted the region during the last few years as examples why the slow start to the season should not be taken lightly.
“We are in the hurricane season, it started early, it means that we are seeing a different kind of action happening within our region. Over the last five years or so we have seen out-of-season storms. What would have been typical rain events become major rainfall events, resulting in flooding and displacement leading to significant impact on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of member states,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“So, we can’t be too comforted by the fact that at this point things have been a bit quiet; it is not a sign that the rest of the season is going to be quiet.
“We have to recognize that as Caribbean people these are episodes that we will experience over the time of life in the Caribbean. It was so in the past, it is so in the present and it is going to be so in the future. Se we do encourage our Caribbean people, households, communities, governments to really be vigilante and to raise our level of preparedness for these events,” he added.
So far Jackson revealed that the Barbados-based CDEMA had not been called upon by its member countries to give any detailed help, with the exception of Belize which requested that the emergency response grant be activated on its behalf following the passage of Hurricane Earl.
Meantime, Jackson who is in Belize getting a first-hand look at the situation there, said his office continued to put the necessary measures in place for the season.
“As we continue to move to what is traditionally called the peak of the hurricane season CDEMA continues to strengthen its regional capacity through training of its specialized teams. Next week we will conduct . . . a webinar with a number of the persons we would have trained already as members of our CARICOM damage assessment team. So we are continuing to hone the skills of our regional response mechanism,” he said.