The British Virgin Islands is once again pleased to join in the observance of International Day for Disaster Reduction. We have consistently used the observance of this day to promote issues relevant to the chosen theme and this year is no different.
IDDR Day 2013 is being observed under the theme, “Living with Disability and Disasters” and for the BVI, it is an opportune time to encourage greater consideration being given to those among us who are challenged with disabilities, whether they are physical or mental.
Persons living with disabilities are no less affected by the disasters to which others are vulnerable. In fact, depending on the type of disability, they are even more susceptible to the impact of disasters and therefore, their specific needs must be incorporated into disaster mitigation and planning.
It is heartening to see that here in the BVI, deliberate efforts are being made to ensure that disaster plans take into account the needs and challenges of persons with disabilities. For the organisations that are already mindful of this, I commend you for your foresight and wisdom. For those who are yet to create a disaster plan or to cater specifically to the needs of the disabled, I encourage you to do so.
Disaster planning for the disabled is not restricted to institutions or places of business. Families must also plan for the loved ones who live among them and who are physically or mentally challenged.
Knowing the limitations of disabled persons and planning accordingly is not optional, it’s essential. Don’t wait until you are faced with a situation that requires the implementation of a disaster plan only to realise that it is still on your to-do list. It is far better to have invested time and energy in crafting a disaster plan that’s applicable to your circumstances and not ever have to implement it, than to be caught in a situation where you need one and do not have one.
The guiding principle of the BVI Department of Disaster Management can be best described in the words of S. Thomas, “It is better to prepare and prevent than repair and repent.” Let that be the guiding principle as well, when we consider persons living with disabilities and facing potential disasters.