Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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Barbadians will receive earlier warning – at least by 12 hours – if a hurricane is approaching the island.
That’s because the lead time for a hurricane watch and warning has been increased by 12 hours. A hurricane warning will now be issued 36 hours in advance instead of 24, while a hurricane watch will be issued 48 hours in advance instead of 36 hours.
These are among measures the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) has put in place in anticipation of heightened hurricane activity this year.
Acting director of Meteorological Services, Hampden Lovell, said that 15 named storms were forecast for the 2010 hurricane season, with eight having the potential to become hurricanes, four of which would be Category 3 or greater.
Judy Thomas, director of DEM, said that with the improved forecast systems in place DEM would be better able to mobilise the country and get people to safety. She noted that Cabinet had agreed to a faster shutdown of the country, which will be done systematically. With a staggered approach, schools and day-care centres will be closed first, the non-essential areas of the public service will follow, and the Civil Service will determine “who will leave and how their offices will be closed”. 
However, Thomas noted that essential services of the private sector – such as supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies, hardware stores and utilities – would need to remain open.
After the system has passed, there will be two all-clear notices given. The meteorological all-clear will be given to the Emergency Operations Centres, at which time security forces and utility companies will be allowed to ensure that infrastructure is safe and people can be allowed out.
Then the operational all-clear will be issued. This will then launch the medical and search response from Government to ensure the safety of people medically impacted or lost. The damage assessment phase will follow this.
Thomas urged the public to understand that in the case of a disaster, the issuance of emergency supplies and food will not be immediate. 
“The response to private needs of individuals is the responsibility of the family and community. There will not be an automatic response, so persons are asked to take care of their needs for the first 72 hours after the hurricane activity,” she explained.
She also emphasised using homes as shelters, and urged people to reinforce or retrofit their homes to use as first option shelters since the current public shelter system was “inadequate” for the entire population.
Thomas also asked persons to volunteer for training with the District Emergency Organisations, and called on those with information technology know-how to join the DEOs to help distribute information.
Noting that the DEM had looked at using Facebook and other social media to disseminate information about storm activity, Thomas said “we have been working with LIME and Digicel … which have assured that they have been able to make service more resilient and will have a better level of communication than previously”.

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