Caribbean urged to be prepared for “very active” hurricane season

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday June 3, 2013 – The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on Saturday June 1, and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Management Agency (CDEMA) has urged Caribbean people to be prepared for a very active season.

Noted hurricane forecasters Dr William Gray and Philip Klotzbach of the Colorado State University have predicted an above-average season with 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes likely to occur during the six-month period.

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting between 13 to 20 named storms, six to11 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes.

CDEMA executive director Ronald Jackson said these predictions are well above the season averages.

“The message is clear. The extent to which we could be impacted will depend on the level of investment we put into preparing for and preventing as best as possible the negative consequences of this hazard.

“We are advocating that there be significant efforts taken to boost sector level, business, family and individual readiness, a message being promoted by the national authorities. In this regard I wish to commend the many NDMAs (National Disaster Management Agencies) which have initiated their national campaigns,” said Jackson.

Jackson, former head of Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), took over the operations of CDEMA last month, replacing Jeremy Collymore. He said that several initiatives have been taken to bolster operational readiness at the national and regional levels.

“The regional level readiness has been built on the readiness for all hazards concept. We have revised the regional coordination plan elaborating more clearly the roles of our sub-regional country focal points and the mechanisms for activating their sub-regional coordination centres.

“We have also conducted and scheduled exercises which will test key aspects of the regional readiness. Exercise “First Step” has already been completed and plans are far advanced for the Region Rap and Exercise Tradewinds. Training and equipping of our CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit has also taken place through support from the US Southern Command thereby sharpening the tip of the spear of our response architecture.”

The CDEMA official stressed that disaster preparedness does not begin on June 1 and he called for greater regional and national investment in comprehensive disaster management.

Pointing to recent comments made by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who said that direct losses from floods, earthquakes and drought have been underestimated by at least 50 percent, Jackson warned that the Caribbean is particularly vulnerable.

“Here in the Caribbean, we recognise that Anguilla, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands and Guadeloupe could all expect to lose 30 percent of their urban capital in the case of a high magnitude tropical cyclone.

“Many of our small islands are dependent on tourism, an activity which is largely coastal and exposed to the ravages of climatic hazards. An impact can have a devastating impact on the overall economy of these countries. 

“A situation clearly illustrated in Grenada and Cayman after Hurricane Ivan. In Guyana, the 2005 floods lead to 4.6 percent losses to GDP (gross domestic product); Hurricane Tomas in St Lucia led to losses in excess,” Jackson said.(CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)