May 31, 2013

Take warning! Be on guard!

Fri May 31 2013

The annual hurricane season in the Caribbean officially begins tomorrow, June 1. This year, it has been heralded by steady rains, which followed a prolonged dry period. Predictions for the 2013 hurricane season are for up to 20 storms, about 10 hurricanes, 3-6 of which could be major destructive ones.{{more}}

These predictions are in line with the pattern of recent years in which both the quantity and intensity of storms have been increasing from year to year. There is a scientific basis for this. Our hurricane season does not occur in isolation from major climatological developments. Whether we want to believe it or not, (as some are prone to do), significant changes in the global climate are affecting weather patterns the world over.

We do not have to stretch our imagination to realize this, all around us unseasonal weather patterns are affecting our environment and hence our daily lives. In relation to environmental threats, the evidence is even more glaring. Small island-nations such as those in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean area, are particularly at risk and therefore cannot ignore the possible consequences of such threats.

Strangely, in spite of our obvious vulnerability, this reality seems not to have impacted sufficiently on the people of the region, nor, we dare say, their governments as a whole. One would have thought, logically, that climate change and the risk of massive damage by natural disasters, would be ingrained in our collective psyche. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case, our concerns and reactions having a tendency to be reactive rather than proactive. June, and the onset of the hurricane season, do not seem to trigger the automatic alerts and levels of preparedness that ought to be our responses.

The damage from hurricanes and other natural disasters, such as our own active volcano, do not just cause massive damage to life and property, as we know only too well, they also have far-reaching, long-term negative effects on the development process. In a qualitative sense, national development suffers a setback and we are sometimes forced to start all over again. There are also quite traumatic effects especially on those who face dislocation.

In addition, vulnerable as the population as a whole is to natural disasters, there are particular sectors which are even more at risk. These include the physically or mentally challenged, the aged, young children and the poor. Preparations for the advent of the hurricane season must take special account of these groups.

It behoves us all to heed the call of the regional disaster agency, CEDEMA, and begin to make preparations for any occurrence. This relates as much to the various national agencies, such as our own NEMO, as it does to all of us. Indeed, CEDEMA, in urging us to be on our guard, has made the appeal not just on a national level, but also for business preparedness and particularly for us to make our preparations at domestic and individual levels.

We prepare for Christmas, we prepare for Carnival, for weddings and other social occasions. Let us take warning and prepare to minimize what can be major disruptions to our daily lives.