January 17, 2014
Country should always be prepared for times of disaster – Beache

Volcanic risk awareness and communication was the topic of discussion at a two-day workshop held here earlier this week.{{more}}

Through the joint effort of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), the Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas (STREVA) team and the UWI Seismic Research Centre, a volcanic risk workshop was held, which aimed to explore the importance of volcanic risk from the perspective of decision makers, government officials, emergency responders, monitoring agencies and the general public.

In brief remarks, executive officer from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson noted that there is a tendency for complacency, when disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, have not occurred in a long period of time.

“We tend to be a people that focus more on the things we face annually, such as the floods and hurricanes,” he said. “When we start to face events that are a hundred years apart, we lose a sense of what can possibly happen and certainly when you go beyond decades and go into generations, then you are losing people who would have a sense of the history and what has occurred”.

Jackson stressed that when speaking about risk management, one must ensure that the experiences of persons who lived through the disaster are well documented so that they can be transmitted across generations, in an effort to create solutions to save lives in future occurrences.

“History has shown that communication is certainly very, very important. In the 1979 volcanic eruption, it was said that no lives were lost and this was because of the early warning that was provided and so this workshop comes at a very critical and important time,” the CDEMA representative said.

Sir Vincent Beache, the national security advisor in the Ministry of National Security shared his experience of the 1979 eruption with the audience. Like Jackson, Beache stressed that this is not the time for complacency and noted that the country should always be prepared for times of a disaster such as a volcanic eruption.

“These come on you like thieves in the night,” he said.

“We tend not to take them seriously, except at the time of the disaster. We have to always be on the lookout.

“We become complacent, but there is no time for complacency when you live in a small island like St Vincent, surrounded by volcanoes…no one knows what is going to happen and when it is going to happen”.

Beache noted that while there is modern technology to monitor these types of disasters, nature can play a major role in an unexpected disaster occurring.

The workshop took place at the Methodist Church Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday.(BK)