Categorized | Editorial, Local, News

Bringing 20 year volcanic crisis perspective – Recapturing: Dealing with our fears in Disasters

Editorial – July 21, 1995

In this Editorial three days after the first signs of the eruption – our first message

These past few days have seen a kind of fear and panic that per­haps should never exist among Montserratians both at home and abroad at this time in our history. It is then a good time to animate and enliven our people that hurricanes are not the only natural disasters that we should all be prepared for.

Seven weeks ago we talked about fear in our Editorial which we repeat in case you missed it. “When one is disturbed by fear, then the heart is not in its right place. When one is involved in worries and anxi­eties, then the heart is not in its right place (and the mind has lost its balance). When the mind isn’t there, we look but do not see, listen but do not hear and eat but do not know the flavor of the food. In these situations how can our lives be right?”

There are those who find themselves in the unenviable position having to deal with the type of fear that’s been evident these past three days, often not really knowing how to deal with the situation themselves. In recent times and for more than a decade now we hear about the National Disaster Preparedness Office under the leadership of the His Excellency the Governor, with responsibility to keep us informed, to prepare us for the advent of and how to deal with natural disasters when they strike. This is housed in the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for obvious reasons. We might wonder though, just how visible this office is. It is apparent that not enough is known about it and its work, since it seems that its prominence is only during certain times during the year, more specifically during the hurricane season.

Perhaps this fear and panic that we sometimes experience have become more habitual since the visit of ‘Mr. Hugo’. At the sound of the threat of hurricanes, storms, floods, earthquakes and the possible erup­tion of our ‘Soufriere’s’, it must be noted that while hurricanes can be expected during a certain time of the year, the other natural disasters that can occur any time. It is coincidence that we are experiencing po­tentially damaging volcanic activity at this time of the year, but it could be any time.

What we have experienced so far has certainly not helped us in knowing with any degree of certainty when and how we should act in be any time these conditions. There doesn’t seem to be the organization necessary to properly advise people as to how they should behave at any given time (with the exception perhaps of a hurricane). We should not have to rely on His Excellency and the Chief Minister, who for the most part can only pass on information given to them. There are trained people who should know how to gather and disseminate relative information to achieve a desired effect in times of disasters or threatening disasters. The obvious impasse during a news conference last night is totally uncalled for, unprofessional and even foolish. The public was left with the determined impression that there are secrets about the volcano too hot, to handle. There is or there was a ‘volcano plan’ which has been in existence long before now, and should be public in as far that panic would be avoided. The public must know long before now that volcanic eruptions are somewhat unpredictable. Bulletins should be available when promised and the press should certainly not have doors closed in their faces.

In 1987 there was an exercise called “Mud ‘N Quake Escape” simulating the evacuation of the south of the island in the event of a volcanic eruption, There was no follow up, but in 1989 we had Hugo and with it the extinction of all other possible thoughts of natural disasters. Many blamed the airwaves media for being over sensational and encouraging the panic that seemed to be so evident among many, perhaps they were, but that should be under the control of the Disaster Preparedness Office. If they rely on our heads of state to deal with these situations, or if the heads of state do not allow those trained to deal with these circumstances, then that should be corrected IMMEDIATELY.

It is not the first time that our Soufrieres have strewn ashes, but it has not been as heavy and the rumblings have not been as evident or even noticed as this time. The Soufriere at Galways has been a regular jaunt for many villagers of St. Patrick’s and lava and ashes were common sights for many years. Hopefully we will not have to experience anything worse than we have so far, but the Disaster Preparedness officials must very soon study and educate the public about ALL or as many of the possible natural disasters that can befall us. We have developed serious problems in instilling and dealing with the fears of our people. It could be that these fears are not recognized. Not only should we discern and deal with them but we must know that there all types of fears.

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Editorial – July 21, 1995

In this Editorial three days after the first signs of the eruption – our first message

These past few days have seen a kind of fear and panic that per­haps should never exist among Montserratians both at home and abroad at this time in our history. It is then a good time to animate and enliven our people that hurricanes are not the only natural disasters that we should all be prepared for.

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Seven weeks ago we talked about fear in our Editorial which we repeat in case you missed it. “When one is disturbed by fear, then the heart is not in its right place. When one is involved in worries and anxi­eties, then the heart is not in its right place (and the mind has lost its balance). When the mind isn’t there, we look but do not see, listen but do not hear and eat but do not know the flavor of the food. In these situations how can our lives be right?”

There are those who find themselves in the unenviable position having to deal with the type of fear that’s been evident these past three days, often not really knowing how to deal with the situation themselves. In recent times and for more than a decade now we hear about the National Disaster Preparedness Office under the leadership of the His Excellency the Governor, with responsibility to keep us informed, to prepare us for the advent of and how to deal with natural disasters when they strike. This is housed in the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for obvious reasons. We might wonder though, just how visible this office is. It is apparent that not enough is known about it and its work, since it seems that its prominence is only during certain times during the year, more specifically during the hurricane season.

Perhaps this fear and panic that we sometimes experience have become more habitual since the visit of ‘Mr. Hugo’. At the sound of the threat of hurricanes, storms, floods, earthquakes and the possible erup­tion of our ‘Soufriere’s’, it must be noted that while hurricanes can be expected during a certain time of the year, the other natural disasters that can occur any time. It is coincidence that we are experiencing po­tentially damaging volcanic activity at this time of the year, but it could be any time.

What we have experienced so far has certainly not helped us in knowing with any degree of certainty when and how we should act in be any time these conditions. There doesn’t seem to be the organization necessary to properly advise people as to how they should behave at any given time (with the exception perhaps of a hurricane). We should not have to rely on His Excellency and the Chief Minister, who for the most part can only pass on information given to them. There are trained people who should know how to gather and disseminate relative information to achieve a desired effect in times of disasters or threatening disasters. The obvious impasse during a news conference last night is totally uncalled for, unprofessional and even foolish. The public was left with the determined impression that there are secrets about the volcano too hot, to handle. There is or there was a ‘volcano plan’ which has been in existence long before now, and should be public in as far that panic would be avoided. The public must know long before now that volcanic eruptions are somewhat unpredictable. Bulletins should be available when promised and the press should certainly not have doors closed in their faces.

In 1987 there was an exercise called “Mud ‘N Quake Escape” simulating the evacuation of the south of the island in the event of a volcanic eruption, There was no follow up, but in 1989 we had Hugo and with it the extinction of all other possible thoughts of natural disasters. Many blamed the airwaves media for being over sensational and encouraging the panic that seemed to be so evident among many, perhaps they were, but that should be under the control of the Disaster Preparedness Office. If they rely on our heads of state to deal with these situations, or if the heads of state do not allow those trained to deal with these circumstances, then that should be corrected IMMEDIATELY.

It is not the first time that our Soufrieres have strewn ashes, but it has not been as heavy and the rumblings have not been as evident or even noticed as this time. The Soufriere at Galways has been a regular jaunt for many villagers of St. Patrick’s and lava and ashes were common sights for many years. Hopefully we will not have to experience anything worse than we have so far, but the Disaster Preparedness officials must very soon study and educate the public about ALL or as many of the possible natural disasters that can befall us. We have developed serious problems in instilling and dealing with the fears of our people. It could be that these fears are not recognized. Not only should we discern and deal with them but we must know that there all types of fears.