Disaster preparedness is everybody’s business, warns expert

WASHINGTON, DC – An international disaster specialist wants businesses and families in the Caribbean to join governments in preparing for a number of serious storms forecast for the region.

Speaking ahead of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism’s CMExPress workshop (to be held at Sandals Antigua on June 14), Oliver Davidson, an advisor to Counterpart International, said businesses and governments must take mitigation measures and promote preparedness, “however, it is also every family’s responsibility to be ready for an emergency.”

But Davidson suggested employers have a special responsibility to help their employees and their families prepare since businesses want employees to return to serve the community that depends on their products or services.

“Company support for employee preparedness is increasing. In some Caribbean islands, businesses give employees time off in the beginning of hurricane season to prepare their homes and communities for any emergency. In one island, some companies whose employees were not given time to prepare left work as the hurricane approached. Those business lost sales as people rushed to stock up for the perceived danger,” Davidson cautioned.

The Counterpart disaster expert, with 30 years’ experience, including participation in more than 350 disasters, stressed emergency readiness is not the sole responsibility of the Government. “The public sector, no matter how wealthy and prepared, can never do the full job of protecting citizens against all hazards. Government agencies can promote emergency planning, provide information about disaster threats and distribute material to enable families, communities and businesses to become disaster resistant,” he said, admitting that National Emergency Management offices in the Caribbean have excellent materials and professional programs to assist businesses, communities and families be ready for emergencies.

“The mistaken belief that Government can do it all results in a high burden on government that is often unfulfilled. Business and community organizations should continually evaluate how capable their governments are to fulfill the important responsibility of facilitating readiness and planning to respond to a catastrophic event. Failure to evaluate this capability and to motivate a ‘lagging’ government has resulted in needless deaths and very high losses. Blaming an unprepared government after a disaster comforts only the political ‘opposition’, while leaving victims to fend for themselves,” said Davidson.

The 2004 hurricane season has demonstrated the importance of citizens questioning government’s capability.

In addition to Counterpart, Oliver Davidson advises the World Bank, The Center for Corporate Citizenship (US Chamber of Commerce), and The Humane Society of the United States.

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