August 6, 2004
Disaster preparedness

Earlier this week the ‘Land of the Blessed’ was visited by Tropical Depression Two and luckily for us there were no major hiccups. The main area affected was the Arnos Vale Airport where the terminal area became flooded, once again one may observe, despite some work that had earlier been done to ameliorate a problem that had become a national embarrassment. {{more}} That the flooding occurred this time around at all might have come as a surprise to some as the problem was supposed to have been long taken care of and, we thought, put to rest. The airport had to be closed for a few hours, which caused some inconvenience to travellers.
But if anything positive could be gleaned from this week’s rainstorms, it was that we were reminded of where some of our weak and strong areas are. We were, for example, quite impressed with the frequency of weather bulletins emanating from the office of the National Disaster Coordinator (should that not be Disaster Preparedness Coordinator?) In fact, had we been publishing a daily newspaper, we would have been very up-to-date on the latest coordinates of the impending storm. And on Wednesday, by midday we had on our fax machine a Situation Report from the National Emergency Organization chaired by the Prime Minister.
By early morning Wednesday, crews with heavy equipment had been mobilized to begin the process of clean-up so much that the morning commute was hardly slower than it would have been on a busy school day’s morning.
This week’s passage of this tropical depression gave us a great opportunity to do a dry run on the systems or plans that may have been drafted and put on paper awaiting the eventuality of a real storm. It provides an opportunity for us as a people to pay more attention to hurricane warnings and the considerable advice that often comes from regional and local agencies such as the National Emergency Organization.
We Vincentians cannot continue to believe that because the Almighty has spared us many of the heartaches so many of our northerly neighbours suffer each year that “God is a Vincy” and we will always be spared the ravages of a real hurricane. We do all need to be vigilant and be prepared.
Our agriculture and in particular our banana industry is very susceptible to heavy winds which in a few hours can lay waste entire plantations. Up to our press time we have had no reports of this kind of damage thankfully. Our hilly volcanic terrain is very prone to landslides and there were some this week. We will need to monitor closely our land conservation practices as too often the hillsides and roadsides are cleared too bare of vegetation leaving nothing to hold the soil when heavy rains fall.
This week was a time when the major utilities and essential services would have gone over their emergency plans for disaster mitigation. Each household needs to be apprised of the basic minimum measures we should put in place in the event of a real storm. Like the old adage says, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, we have been warned. The hurricane season is just beginning and we all need to be prepared.