DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: IT IS OUR BUSINESS!
Another hurricane season is here, and this year, we have been warned to expect
more storms with greater degrees of intensity. Indeed, meteorologists are
predicting a particularly, active and busy hurricane season. The truth is, I am
worried, even uneasy as I know the odds are against us. You must never forget
that St. Lucia has had a dramatic history of severe weather systems hitting in
1780, 1818, 1819, 1831, 1837, 1841, 1894,1898, 1923, 1951, 1955, 1960, 1963,
1967, 1978, 1980, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, and 2002.
A PERSONAL ACT
It is our responsibility to take every necessary precaution to ensure that this
hurricane season passes without undue loss of life, human suffering and damage
to property. It is our responsibility because Disaster Management, though guided
by the team at the NEMO Secretariat, is really a personal act of protection.
The Government can only advise persons but the actions that lead to protection
must be one that we undertake to do for ourselves, our family and our business.
We cannot stop a hurricane but we can be better prepared for its onslaught.
A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY
I am particularly concerned that Saint Lucia's run of good luck with past
hurricane seasons might have lulled us into a false sense of security.
Incidentally, this year marks the 25th Anniversary of Hurricane Allen and the
50th Anniversary of Hurricane Janet. How time flies!
The damage caused to Saint Lucia by Tropical Storm Debbie, Hurricane Lenny, and
to some extent Hurricane Ivan should be a sharp reminder to all of us that we
should not take the hurricane season for granted.
NEED FOR VIGILANCE
We must all accept the need for greater vigilance and caution during the
upcoming season. Our fishermen and coast dwellers must pay serious attention to
the advisories which are issued by
the disaster and emergency agencies.
The Government of Saint Lucia through the Saint Lucia Met Services now maintains
a Weather Information Service at telephone 454-3452. There is now no excuse for
any of us not to know the status of the weather for a particular day or when a
hurricane is approaching.
Home owners and indeed all families, must take the necessary steps to ensure
that their homes and families are adequately protected from hurricanes and their
INSURE YOUR PROPERTIES
In my New Year's Address this year, I urged you to make the sacrifice and insure
your property and its contents.
Recently, the President of the Saint Lucia Insurance Council, Mr Claudius
Francis, spoke on the apparent reluctance of St. Lucians to avail themselves of
insurance coverage. I want to repeat my plea to you to act now in getting the
insured household percentage up from 35%.
Credit Unions in Saint Lucia use the group insurance methodology that allows
members to access coverage at a reasonable rate. The Civil Service Cooperative
Credit Union, for example, offers House and House Hold Contents coverage to its
members. But the traditional house insurance is not the only risk we need to
consider. Recently there have been a number of landslides, throughout the
island. Subsidence insurance, as well as fire, flood and earthquake are some of
the packages which are available. Again, I want to challenge you to strive for
a 60% figure of insurance coverage for this year, no matter how painful
the financial cost.
Insurance not only applies to our homes but to our businesses too. Business
persons need to ask the following questions. Does the business have:
business interruption Insurance coverage?
insurance coverage? and
continuity of operations plan?
As you know, this is a technological age. Businesses should therefore determine
whether they have backup files and data saved away from their businesses.
VEXED ISSUE OF TREES
Another issue which we must address is the trimming of trees. For many, this is
a vexed issue. How often have neighbors quarelled with each other over trees
that separate boundaries or grow in each otherís back yard? I urge you to put
your differences aside and trim your trees to avoid injury and damage.
The laws of Saint Lucia provide an avenue for addressing the nuisance of trees.
However, we are all aware of the burden that the judicial system labours under
and it may be months before your case comes before the courts. Neighbours must
work together to remove the hazard of dangerous trees and branches. So, the
solution does not lie in the court. If you are reluctant to cut or trim your
trees, then, think again!
DISPOSAL OF WASTE
This brings me to a related issue, the disposal of our waste. Having cut a
tree, a river is not the place to dispose of the waste. Poor garbage disposal
in our water ways comes back to haunt us with the intensity of floods. The
topography of Saint Lucia, the combination of hills and valleys will always lead
to flooding. We can lessen the effects of flooding by disposing of our garbage
in the manner prescribed by the Solid Waste Waste Management Authority.
The combination of poor garbage disposal with flood conditions brought on by
hurricanes can lead to the out break of diseases. A good example is
leptospirosis. This disease is carried by rats and can be lethal.
We must take control of how we deal with our garbage. The cycle of life is
described as such because all that we do is linked. So it is in Disaster
Management: Hurricanes bring rain that can cause floods. Poor garbage disposal
can worsen those floods. Floods can sweep persons and buildings away and do
THE VALUE OF DISASTER PLANNING
You may have noted this Governmentís heavy emphasis on disaster mitigation and
disaster planning. Every so often, you hear of a Resolution in Parliament to
raise money for flood control and disaster mitigation. All of this is done as
part of a broader
Proper planning includes things like being aware of the emergency shelters in
your neighbourhood. Many persons query the adequacy of these shelters for the
Hurricane Season; this is why they are Emergency Shelters and not Hurricane
Shelters. Disaster Preparedness, as I indicated earlier, is a personal
precaution. For that reason, the Government of Saint Lucia, through the NEMO
Secretariat, advises that persons take steps to make their homes their emergency
shelters. If this is not possible then we should make advance arrangements to be
with family or friends. As recently as Hurricane Ivan, I announced in my
address to the Nation the exact shelters that would be opened. The 2005 List is
available from NEMO and on the Government of Saint Lucia website.
HURRICANES AND ECONOMIC FORTUNES
We must never forget that a hurricane can have immense consequences for the
future of our economy. Consider the impact of a hurricane on the lives of our
banana farmers who have experienced so many difficulties over the years. A
hurricane can bring closure to our tourism plant, displace workers and taxi
drivers. And there is always the huge cost of rebuilding private homes, public
buildings and our roads and communications network.
In such circumstances, in addition to doing all that is physically possible to
protect ourselves, we can only pray to God to spare our beautiful country from
the impact of a serious natural disaster. Let us hope that we all do what is
necessary this year to protect life and property and let us pray to God for
deliverance during this hurricane season.
Take care of yourself and PRAY hard.