“Readiness is relative to what threat you face and as an Agency we have things in place, but, as to say yes or no, we’re ready, it is something that you can’t say yes and should not say no to.”
Those were the words uttered by National Disaster Coordinator at the state-run National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA), Superintendent Sylvan McIntyre as he responded to Grenada’s state of readiness for the 2018 Hurricane Season which started on June 1.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper at his office on Fort Frederick at Richmond Hill St. George on Monday, Mc Intyre urged all Grenadians to ensure that there was a heightened level of preparedness for the season which officially runs until November 30 as only one storm is needed to cause massive destruction.
He underscored the need for every individual to make personal preparation for the season.
According to McIntyre, NaDMA has already started to release the information needed for the country to be highly prepared for the possible impact of a Hurricane.
“We’ve been doing our community preparedness in terms of information about Hurricanes themselves, what people should do. We would say to people, you should clean up your own surrounding, ensure you take responsibility for your families and immediate surrounding because preparedness actually starts with individuals – it expands to the community and further expansion of that is the entire society and Grenada as a whole, but the bottom line is that NaDMA has to lead the charge but every individual must take responsibility for doing some things for themselves,” he said.
With the experts predicting 10 to 16 named storms for the 2018 Hurricane Season, the Hurricane Chief urged Grenadians to put together a family disaster plan to be implemented in homes for the season.
“You (should) have a little plan that spells out what each person in the home is responsible for – what amount of dry stuff, medical stuff and other things you need to have.
“Again, the information is readily available as to how much water people would need, how much food they would need, what kinds of food they would have, but as I said understanding where to go, what to do and who is responsible for what at the community level is critical.
NaDMA has already mapped the 17 districts across the island for the season and the responsibilities of the Coordinators who will be present there.
McIntrye said the Coordinators will be mandated to do damage and needs assessment and to offer limited security.
He identified one of the challenges going forward into the Hurricane season as the drop in the number of designated shelters which has diminished from 120 primary and secondary shelters in 2017 to 107 in 2018.
This, McIntyre said, is as a result of difficulty in providing maintenance to those shelter buildings.
He admitted that the situation could pose some concerns during the season but NaDMA is planning to do a comprehensive vulnerability assessment to ensure that every district and community is well secured.
“We should have done our vulnerability assessment across country. We should be able to say to people that 75,000 persons are vulnerable and would need shelters. That is a goal I have set nationally – that we must try to get to the point where we do the vulnerability assessment to determine how many persons will need shelters.
“It’s one of the things that will be tasked by our District Coordinators – they need to do a thorough assessment in each community. We must be able to say in the community of River Road, the population is X and out of that population about X are likely to need shelters.
McIntyre pointed out that the Agency is moving in the direction of encouraging persons to have a specific room within their houses that can provide good hurricane shelter if the need arises.
“Even if we don’t have the same amount of buildings or facilities identified as shelters, we encourage people to have in your own homes what we call a strong room. So, if you don’t have the kind of financial resource or material resource to build your house to a particular standard, people should at least try and have a room that they can consider to be safe – not necessarily a bunker but a strong room,” he said.
McIntyre stated that the use of the downstairs of the house should also be considered for use by persons during a hurricane.
“We’ve seen after Hurricane Ivan most people have built downstairs and they rented them. So, even if you have a rented downstairs, you can make an arrangement with the tenant which says in case of that kind of emergency we will have to (use the place).
“…It be a formal arrangement in the contract arrangement for tenants – you could make an arrangement that in the event of some emergency, the downstairs would likely be used as a shelter and this is something that we’re encouraging people to do.
The experienced NaDMA head believes that despite all the information put in the public domain by the agency, the country could only be ready for the season if the information is received by the people.
“The mere fact that each hazard or each situation will pose a different challenge, we are doing the best we could with the resources that are available to us.
We would know where we stand, as an agency. We have been doing a lot and if you’re asking me if we’re doing sufficient…we would think that we are giving out sufficient information. The question (should) be – are the people receiving the information and if they are receiving it, what they doing with it”, he said.
McIntyre believes that some people might have already taken the position that NaDMA is not doing enough to educate the population for the 2018 Hurricane season.
However, he said that as a region, the various islands have come a long way in preventing many loss of lives from hurricanes but still have some way to go in preventing economic losses.
“Hurricane is one of the easier hazards to prepare for because it gives you a long warning period and we shouldn’t really have loss of lives during Hurricanes. Over the years the region has become better in saving or preventing loss of lives but we must become better in economic loss.
“We are the second most disaster prone region in the world and we’ve been losing billions of dollars. Every year hazards impact and it’s not specific to hurricanes, so there is a lot we can do but individuals must take responsibility for their own preparedness.
“The aspect of looking at comprehensive disaster preparedness, it is not just about responding and reacting to a situation now that we understand we have an active hurricane season.
“What is important is that our preparedness for hurricane or any kind of hazards is for a state and individuals to an extent. We include what they call risk reduction initiatives. We would not be able to prevent some natural things from happening, but if we include risk reduction initiatives in our planning, mitigation strategies in our building and other things, we (will be)…. able to lose less people.
“… We must get to the point where our environment would be impacted less negatively and we would have less economic losses when God forbids a hazard strike.
McIntyre noted that in 2004, Grenada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) loss from Hurricane Ivan was 212%, Dominica’s lost 226% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from its hit by a major hurricane last year.
“So, it means that you are setting yourselves back years and years and years…” he quipped.
The insuring of properties could be something individuals can look at to ensure that loss is recovered after the passage of a disaster, but McIntyre said that this will not be made mandatory by NaDMA for persons to get done.
He warned Grenadians to accept only information provided from NaDMA during the hurricane season.