Disaster officer says: “Local community must get themselves hurricane ready”

POSTED: 10/17/14 4:21 PM

St. Maarten – The local community have a responsibility to get themselves hurricane ready all through the hurricane season according to Paul Martens of the office of disaster management within the fire department.

Martens invited comment comes on the heels of statements from the populace that they had not received adequate warning to allow them to prepare for hurricane Gonzalo on Monday. According to Martens the information was disseminated as soon it was received and the necessary organizations were all informed and came together to tackle the situation. He noted that Gonzalo developed rapidly and that much time had elapsed between the storm warning and the notice that it had now become a hurricane warning.  Martens noted however that “no one can control whether a storm becomes a hurricane” since it is a force of nature.

“Hurricane preparedness notices are always being aired on the radio all through the season telling people what they need to do and what they need to have in stock to be prepared for a hurricane. The community must be more responsible and be alert all through the season and keep in mind that a storm can easily develop into a hurricane,” Martens said.

He said he understands persons need to vent their frustration in the wake of destruction caused by Gonzalo but pointed out that it could have been much worst and that almost the entire island would have been caught unprepared despite the many warnings throughout the hurricane season. Martens stressed that persons need to view Gonzalo as a wakeup call that they cannot be complacent during the hurricane season and to take the necessary precautions.

Martens dismissed statements that the loud speakers that were placed in some communities in 2006 to alert residents of flooding should have been used to announce that Gonzalo had developed into a hurricane. He explained that the speakers are not placed in all communities so still would not have been more effective than media announcements and that the speakers were never intended to be used for hurricane warnings.  According to Martens when a hurricane is approaching there is enough time to alert people as opposed to floods which seldom give enough notice of their approach.

Regarding comments that the hurricane shelters were not opened during the hurricane, Martens noted that the practice has always been not to open the shelters during a category one hurricane. He contends that even when the shelters have been opened, residents usually opt not to use these.

Martens however concede that a better method must be utilized to alert the public of impending disasters and explained that strives have already been made in that department.  The method currently under discussion and which is expected to be introduced sometime next year is an “automatic radio break in” that would allow the disaster warning to be heard all over the island. Methods of reaching the populace via phones are also under discussion. Martens stressed that whichever method is utilized the population will have to be brought up to speed with it and as such a public campaign will begin to acquaint residents with the system once it has been introduced.

 

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