Barbados Getting Ready For April Or May Hurricanes As ‘Exceedingly’ Active 2024 Season Forecast.

Photo: Damage caused by Hurricane Elsa in Barbados in 2021.
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With early predictions for an “exceedingly” active hurricane season this year, the Government of Barbados is moving to get the country ready from as early as April and May, and is ensuring that early warning systems are in place.

At the same time, Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams, is encouraging the island’s donors and partners to treat the matter of implementing early warning systems and policies for Barbados with a greater sense of urgency, as suggested by the United Nations.

He was at the time addressing the second national consultative Technical Workshop for Validation of the Multi-Hazard Early Warning System Implementation Plan for Barbados at Courtyard by Marriott, yesterday.

“We expect that we are probably going to see some action or something happening in April. We cannot fix the hurricane season as being from the first of June to November 30, [but] we can’t wait anymore [because] God and nature are not following the timings set down. So, our systems for warning…, resilience…, action, and recovery need to be as nimble as the weather is unpredictable,” Mr. Abrahams said.

This video shows the flooding caused by Hurricane Tammy on Barbados in late 2023. Barbadis had avoided hurricanes for 65 years until Hurricane Else arrived in 2021.

Acknowledging that progress was being made, the Minister lamented that it was too slow, and urged for targets set for 2025 to be moved up to this year, preferably before May or June.

“I understand that international organisations and donors have a process, and it takes time, from the concept of what you want to lend, or what the other party needs to actual realisation of cash on an account…., [but] we need to shorten those timelines. The urgency of it needs to be realised,” he stressed.

Mr. Abrahams revealed that his discussions with the Barbados Meteorological Services indicated that, in addition to an “exceedingly” active season, Barbados should expect at least one or more of an “instant formation of some event”, similar to the weather event experienced in 2021.

He added that it was therefore critical for Government to be in a position to effectively warn the public as quickly as possible, especially as the country was earmarked to be one of the pioneers to push the Early Warning System for All (EW4ALL).

Early warning systems have proven to be a cost-effective and reliable solution to protect lives and livelihoods from natural hazards such as floods, heatwaves, storms and tsunamis.

The Global Status Report (2022) reveals that countries with substantive-to-comprehensive early warnings coverage have disaster mortality eight times lower than countries with limited coverage. According to the Global Commission on Adaptation, giving just 24 hours’ notice of an impending hazardous event can reduce damage by 30 per cent. Investing just US$800 million in such systems in developing countries would prevent losses of $3 to $16 billion annually.

With 95 per cent of the world’s population having access to mobile broadband networks and nearly 75 per cent owning a mobile phone, mobile networks have become powerful communication channels that can effectively target those in at-risk areas.

To date, there are a total of 10 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) being signed with various agencies, the most recent being the Barbados Community College, to allow for radio station interrupts.

“These 10 MOUs represent 19 stations and their commitment to supporting the dissemination of emergency messages to the Barbadian population,” Minister Abrahams said, noting they would used in addition to the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP); the MET Office’s app, the BMS Insight; and Climate Outlook Forecast for the MET Office and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology.

However, he pointed out that for early warning systems to have an impact, everyone needed to understand what they meant, what they were supposed to do, and what actions they should take when they receive the messages.

Mr. Abrahams also said while the Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems policy was a draft, it was a critical step in strengthening Barbados’ disaster legislation to effectively manage risks and the impacts from disasters.

“Further to the passage of legislation, what is urgently required now is the acceleration of financing…,” he underscored. Barbados endorsed the EW4ALL initiative in February 2023. It aims to ensure that every person is covered by early warning systems by 2027.

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