Research over the years in places like India, the United States and Canada, suggests that having been exposed to a disaster in the past, tends to make communities more likely to take steps to prepare for a potential impact in the future.
Another sign I see that we are living in a culture of preparedness is that our knowledge of how to be ready is sophisticated. Persons who I come across in my daily life, whether they are colleagues in the public service or others in the community, ask questions that demonstrate a detailed understanding of different aspects of preparedness, especially when it comes to storms. We have moved past household-level basics like food, water and spare batteries. In my experience, matters like bulky waste disposal, drainage challenges, backup communications and insurance coverage are much more common question topics.
Outside my circle, there are other signs that we are in a culture of preparedness. For example, when the Department of Disaster Management conducted our most recent KAP (knowledge, attitudes and practices) survey, approximately 350 BVI residents shared their thoughts on various aspects of preparedness. More than half said that they prepare for storms and hurricanes throughout the year. Even more impressive, more than 90 percent of respondents said they agreed with the statement “everyone has a role to play when it comes to disaster preparedness.” As an emergency manager, this is exactly what you hope to hear from your community.
In the business community, I can see persons adopting measures like continuity plans and workplace preparedness training. In our non-governmental agencies, I can see our people making connections between conservation and disaster resilience. Across all levels of our educational system, I can see that students know what the most common hazards are and they know the most important steps they can take to be safe before, during and after an emergency.
And yet, I worry that what I see is not enough.
What if we know that we should have an emergency plan, but we have not yet sat together as a family to make one?
What if we have a mental list of steps to take to safeguard our property, but we have not made the time to put those steps into action?
What if we do indeed have a comprehensive emergency plan, but it has never been practiced?
What if we have assembled a kit of emergency supplies that suits our family or household, but we’ve stored it away for so long that the food and medicine inside are past their date?
In other words, I worry that as a Territory, we have not taken steps to put our knowledge into action. The reality is that if a disaster does strike, far too many of us will lose our lives, homes or livelihoods because we did not do what we should have while we had the chance.
While it may take effort, bridging the gap between knowledge and action is possible, with commitment. I urge each and every one of us in this Territory to make a commitment now to take a few simple steps to help their families and businesses face any storms that may arrive this season.
In life, there are no guarantees. Even taking all the above steps cannot completely prevent a bad outcome if an emergency arises. However, knowing that we have done all we can, while we can, will help to ensure that should the worst happen, we will not have to suffer the additional burden of regret over what more could have been done.