The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) is confident that the work done in Barbuda should ensure that the island fares well during any major threat during the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season which begins today and ends on November 30th.
In a press release, Director of NODS Philmore Mullin said he is satisfied with the repair work done on the structures on the sister-isle.
“There are several houses that have been fixed and I have absolutely no problem with persons staying in those homes because the homes would have been retrofitted adequately,” he said.
In 2017, the small island was totally destroyed by Hurricane Irma, leaving many residents without homes and forcing them to seek refuge in Antigua.
Since then, however, small steps have been taken to rectify some of the structural issues on the island.
In fact, several buildings in Barbuda are currently being assessed to serve as shelters.
On the other hand, Mullin said, one of the concerns is that a number of small wooden structures like washrooms need to be secured to their foundations as these could become missiles during a storm or hurricane.
He is urging personnel from the Development Control Authority (DCA) and residents of Barbuda to ensure that this is addressed.
On the issue of communication, NODS said it has secured additional emergency telecommunication for Barbuda, which includes a satellite phone and a base station for Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radios.
These radios will ensure there is constant communication, unlike what occurred in 2017 where all contact with Barbuda was lost immediately after the impact of Hurricane Irma.
As it relates to Antigua, NODS said it will continue to encourage the various government ministries to either update their disaster management plans or, for those who do not yet have, to develop them. Disaster officials have met with disaster liaison officers that are attached to the ministries to ensure that this is done.
According to the press release, meetings with District Disaster Coordinators (DDCs) – who are responsible for disaster management issues in the communities – have already taken place.
The disaster office is committed to training persons who have volunteered to assist the DDCs to include topics such as basic disaster management, damage assessment, shelter management and telecommunications among others.
NODS and the Ministry of Works are working together to approve the list of shelters for the 2019 hurricane season.
The national disaster office encourages adequate preparedness ahead of the season and is urging the public to take note of the usual hurricane safety tips.
Some of the general hurricane preparedness tips include: ensuring that properties are secured, stocking up on non-perishable food (e.g. canned goods, juice, cornflakes, crackers), storing adequate water for drinking and cleaning purposes, having a battery-operated radio and extra batteries, flashlight and items for specific family members like babies, the elderly and those with special needs.
Farmers, fishermen and business owners should also take the necessary precautions to secure their livelihood.