Well done

DEM pleased with response to shutdown

Disaster management officials are expressing satisfaction with Barbadians’ response to yesterday’s national shutdown as the country was preparing for Tropical Storm Harvey.

Director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) Kerry Hinds said, unlike last year when a similar decision was taken in preparation for Tropical Storm Matthew, there was general compliance and few complaints about the shutdown.

Government offices were ordered closed as early as 2:30 p.m. yesterday, while the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry had recommended that private sector entities employ a staggered shutdown approach, with offices closing at 2:30 p.m.; retail stores at 3:30 p.m. and petrol stations and supermarkets and other essentials by 4:30 p.m. The Transport Board also said its last buses would have left the terminals at 5 p.m.

Hinds said all the sectors and the public had learned lessons from the passage of last year’s storm.

“Last year we also would have had consultation. I think sometimes it is a case where we have to educate persons about the systems and about the standard operating procedures that we have in place. Of course, like anything else we felt it necessary to have that shutdown dialogue, and, of course, we would have had that with various agencies including the private sector and the various public agencies sitting down and trying to refine our standard operating procedures,” the DEM head said.

“What you would have seen today [yesterday] is really a testimony to that and I really need to thank all Barbadians for [complying].

“Even as I left the National Emergency Operations Centre a bit earlier, and on my way back in here at the DEM, I realized that persons really did heed the warnings that were issued. At the end of the day it is to really ensure the safety of all Barbadians and we always err on the side of caution,” she explained.

It is not unusual for the meteorological office to come in for criticism when a storm turns out to be less impactful that predicted.

This has not escape the Met Office, which adopted a more measured approach this time around to issuing weather bulletins, according to Met Officer Sabu Best.

“In the past, we have been getting a lot of stick based on the recent history and that is based on a number of reasons. But let me say here that this [time] . . . we would have consulted on the various parameters, guidance, models and we came to a really quick decision about what we wanted to do,” Best said.

The Transport Board was the one public service that came in for much criticism yesterday, with commuters complaining about the narrow window that they had to make it from work to the bus terminal.

There were lengthy queues as the 5 p.m. deadline approached, leaving some passengers worried that they would be left behind with no means of getting home.

However, Communications Manager Lynda Holder said the Board had learnt from previous experience that a minimum of three-and-a-half hours were needed to clear buses off the road once a shutdown order is given.

“That is a process that we are having to have to continuously do because human nature being human nature, we think about us first, but there are other factors . . . .If we are told, as we were when we had our first set of information, it was anticipated that we would start getting the intense weather around 8 o clock, we need to work backwards.  We had to factor in how long it would take to get [commuters] out of Bridgetown, get our staff home, the get other persons off the road,” Holder said.

“We are well aware that when we say five o’clock, we will not get the bus terminals cleared at five. We say our last buses are at five to ensure that persons are in the terminals so we can load and get out. Inevitably, we leave the terminals after six. [Last] evening, we closed at 6:15 p.m.  One terminal closed at 6:35 p.m. to be exact.

“So then, you still had those buses to get back.  At 20 minutes to nine, if we had had the impact that we were anticipating at eight o’clock, we still had buses on the road.  We still have that complement of staff who needed to make their way home.

“Even though it may seem to the public that the timing is a little tight for them, there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration,” Holder reiterated.

2 Responses to Well done

  1. leroy August 19, 2017 at 3:16 am

    Bridgetown was a mess, staggering was not effective, there must be a mass evacuation plan for bridgetown which allows some roads to be one way in and some one way out with the help of traffic cops stationed at various points and certain sections and have traffic lights on blinking.
    It took some people 1 hour to get from kensington oval to just past the qeh, if this was a tsunami alert, most of those cars would be washed away.

  2. Bajan August 19, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Up till now, the Government of Barbados has not given the ‘All Clear’ announcement. After months of advertising Hurricane tips, and talking about wait until the All Clear is given, the Department of Emergency Management did not announce an All Clear. For hours after the storm people were waiting and confused. We had to assume and guess that it was ok to come out because there was no guidance from government. Not good enough DEM.


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