Anytime. Anywhere. Anyhow.
Those three words practically sums up the open vulnerability of human beings to natural disasters. Every geographical location on the earth’s surface is under the potential destructive effects of some form of natural disaster. So it makes little sense to run away from the tornadoes or heat waves in Oklahoma and come to St Vincent and the Grenadines (not that we wouldn’t welcome your visit). But here in the Caribbean we have to contend with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fires, flooding and land/mudslides and hurricanes.
There is no 100% preparedness or prevention strategy that we can use against the damages caused by natural disasters, but, just as we try to prepare for the death of a loved one, we also try to prepare for disasters so that we can take out a bit of the sting out of the disasters. The hurricane season runs from June to November but one should not wait for those six months to be prepared. There are simple steps that can be taken all year round.
One of the simplest things to do is to keep a clean quantity of water stored to last your household for a couple of days ( a week will be good). You can change that water every couple of months by using it for washing or some domestic purpose. Make sure your stored water does not become a mosquito breeding ground. That in itself can ignite its own disaster.
I wish to use my blog to suggest that all homeowners and contractors working with financial institutions incorporate a permanent water storage facility in the home mortgage. Similarly, each home mortgage can also have its own solar unit attached . These two important fixtures may be costly initially, but in the long run, believe me, they will not only for themselves but may also save lives in the process.
A few years ago, while at a government function at the Methodist Church Hall I was scolded by a lady from the Grenadines who was openly upset at the amount of water mainlanders have running freely while they in the Grenadines were rationing their daily use of water.
Let me return to my focus. In order to be ready for a disaster as well, as a people we need to know what alternative means of communication we will resort to. It is always predictable that electricity and telephone services are among the first casualties in a storm or disaster. Let me suggest that each village, if not each household, should have access to a CB radio or other emergency broadcast equipment. I think it is crucial that when a disaster has struck, telephones are dead, roads are blocked and citizens injured, then the rural communities must know exactly what to do, and even who should do it.
Although NEMO is doing quite a commendable job of sensitizing the population on proper disaster preparedness strategies, one of my concerns is who or where do villagers go in the immediate aftermath of a disaster such as a hurricane. While I was in Grenada I listened to Grenadians tell of their experiences during and after Hurricane Ivan. Even though several years has passed since the utter destruction from that September 7 hurricane in 2004, you can still hear the fright in their voices as they share. I vividly recall one young lady telling me that the church that her family and other villages ran into just as the storm started was basically destroyed in minutes. She said she panicked when she saw her mother–her tower of strength–bawling down the place because of the loud noises and darkness of the heavens. The glass windows of the church building did not hesitate to allow the heavy winds entry into the building.
Under such circumstances of chaos and terror I think it is imperative that villagers know who to turn to as they await help from the authorities. That is, providing that the authorities still exist and can respond. It is most likely that a plan of action has to take into account use of secondary roads or just “short cuts” because most roads are often blocked by landslides.
Families should also know where the closest emergency shelter is located. They should also have a plan in the event tha they are separated. maybe they can agree to communicate or meet at a neighbour’s place, for example.
Stocking up on durable food items is a good practice. If your family is large, buy the basic grocery items in bulk. Be ready to eat fruits and vegetables that may be in abundance after a storm.
It is not a bad idea to take the time before a disaster hits to volunteer with your local Red Cross and learn some life-saving skills. Who knows, you might be the only doctor or nurse at the scene of a serious injury resulting from a natural disaster.
A good effect of natural disasters is that it automatically breaks down any and all walls of divisions between people. And maybe that is something that every people group needs: to see each other as family,and love, care and help because it is just the right thing to do.