The Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry hosted a business breakfast at the Hilton Hotel entitled ‘The Role of the Private Sector in Managing Disaster’. This event came about after much debate surrounding the national shutdown while awaiting the arrival of Tropical Storm Matthew as well as the day after.
The discussion at the business breakfast was well balanced and informative with useful insight given by a select panel which comprised of: Disaster Emergency Specialist and Former Director of Emergency Services – Mr. Clive Lorde, Mrs. Roseann Myers – Chairman, BHTA, Mr. Bob Turnbull – A Certified Business Continuity Professional, Ms. Melony James – Labour Management Advisor, BEC and Mr. Jonathan Sylvester – A Senior ICT Professional at C&W Business.
A major point emanating from the discussion was that there was definitely a need for clear communication of the shutdown procedures at the National Level which should then be filtered to businesses and the people of Barbados. Executive Director, BCCI – Mrs. Gale in moderating the session made several references to The Emergency Management Act as well as the DEM’s Policy Framework & Standard Operating Procedures for the systematic national shutdown & reactivation of Barbados. She contended that with poor communication it can lead to much confusion. She cited that it was clear that many in the business community were not totally familiar with the content of such legislation and SOPs hence the confusion as it pertains to emergency procedures in the event of an impending Natural Disaster. She indicated that it was for this reason that the Business Emergency Operating Centre was set up to be the tentacles of the private sector.
Whilst there is legislation outlined, Mrs. Myers also reminded managers that though they may not know everything that the legislation states, it is their role to ensure that their staff is properly catered for in a timely manner when preparing for such events. She went on to explain that following certain protocol, it is her belief that the staff should be afforded the opportunity to ensure the safety and preparedness of their immediate family before being asked to cover that of their organization. This would then allow for organisations to better prepare and set motions in place to safeguard their physical assets through the use of the same employees who should now be more comfortable that their families are okay.
Ms. James along with addressing certain queries received after the shutdown, emphasized the importance of safety including properly outfitting employees with the correct gear needed for an emergency. She also highlighted to the audience, the rights of employers verses those of employees during a situation in particular a hurricane.
Mr. Turnbull and Mr. Sylvester both highlighted the importance of utilizing best practices to ensure business continuity. Safeguarding information and setting systems to ensure the effective flow of communication before, during and after a disaster were key points. Mr. Sylvester used the case of C&W Business to make the point of testing the plan to ensure its efficacy.
Mr. Turnbull, who was very matter-of-fact chided that it is only a matter of time before Barbados became victim to a disaster and as such urged companies to ensure that they are adequately insured and that they have the necessary supplies in advance rather than sticking to the cultural last minute preparations.
The audience was very attentive asking several questions, offering suggestions and testimonies. As expected, while being grateful for the information given in the session, pleaded for a more structured approach to a national shutdown querying what was essential and what was not.
Sponsor for the BCCI’s Business Breakfast Mr. Andrew Bynoe – Managing Director of A1 Supermarkets, was one of the persons who came under heavy criticism for opening his business during the shutdown. He made a call for clarity with respect to how one should go about shutting down a business during bad weather. Mr. Bynoe stated that every year supermarkets in Barbados as part of the General Supplies Committee received requests from several agencies to open their stores during a Hurricane to which he normally obliges. Such being the case, on September 27, 2016 when the shutdown was called for 6 p.m., he decided to keep the supermarket open beyond the shut down time to accommodate last minute shoppers and in his words “took lashes for doing so”. This also strengthened the call for more structure and a tiered approach to shutting the country down.