Tuesday, 1st June – The Atlantic Hurricane Season is upon us once again, June 1st marking the beginning of the Season which ends on November 30th. As I trust everyone is aware Atlantic hurricanes affect the Caribbean region, recently with devastating impact. It is imperative therefore that those in the area heed the message to prepare, and prepare well.
The experts are predicting a busier than usual season for 2010. Hurricane prediction is an imprecise science and these early forecasts will be modified in the light of evolving climactic conditions. But if the current predictions prove to be at all accurate, the 2010 hurricane season will stand in sharp contrast to the relatively mild 2009 season.
Hurricanes like Hugo of 1989, Georges of 1998, and Lenny of 1999, and more recent strikes around the region, have taught us many lessons. One of them is that even with all the information and assistance available, there really is no substitute for awareness and preparedness, both at the very outset of the season and in the days before a hurricane is predicted to hit. Experience further tells us that advance preparation is the key. That’s why the Department of Disaster Management is encouraging all of us on the Territory once again to start preparing now.
Disaster preparedness is a very personal thing. Although the DDM and other agencies make disaster mitigation their business, it is the attention to the preparedness message at the individual and community level that determines how the Territory comes through a hurricane strike. We need to ensure that through our active participation in mitigation measures our homes, families, and businesses can cope with the destructive power of natural disasters. And let there be no mistake. It is only through pre-event planning that we will come through safely, that property damage will be reduced, that lives will be saved, and recovery made easier.
It only takes one hurricane to cause the worst imaginable disaster with possible loss of life and property. The Government will do its part in ensuring that all early warning systems, emergency communication networks and physical and marine shelters are in a state of readiness. Local responders will be ready at all times to provide necessary emergency information and assistance when needed. But without the involvement of individuals, families, neighbourhoods and businesses all this government activity will count for little.
So I urge the people of the Virgin Islands to sit down with their families and develop a plan that may involve staying at home, if you are satisfied it can survive the strongest hurricane, or early evacuation and a clear destination if you are not; also a family communications plan, and supplies to support an extended stay either at home or away from home. All of us have a role to play in preparing for and responding to disasters within our communities, so we must work together to organize. During the next few weeks the DDM will be conducting an information campaign to help make us more aware of how to protect ourselves in the coming months. Please stay tuned to your local media for these hurricane awareness and preparedness tips.
I am also encouraging all local businesses to take the necessary steps in planning and preparing their firms and employees for potential business interruptions. Since 2006 the DDM has been offering assistance in Business Continuity Management. Some businesses have already taken advantage of this opportunity, but I would urge all to consider doing so now. It is never too late.
In closing, let us all plan to make our communities more resilient to hazards and disasters, and let us remember that careful preparation can make a huge difference in your lives. My view on this is clear. Inadequate preparation and complacency could be the difference between life and death. So please make good decisions in advance and be confident that you are ready to successfully face whatever nature throws at us this year.
In brief let us work together and plan together to make this hurricane season a safe one for all.