Dr Brian Charles, emergency physician based in Barbados, provides practical tips on safeguarding your practice from the Caribbean’s annual adverse weather conditions
Much of our time is spent anticipating events and seasons. We anxiously look forward to religious festivals like Christmas, Easter and Diwali, and social events like carnivals and holidays, and other events of festivity. In the Caribbean, we have no defined seasons but we do have an annual season that causes much trepidation and anxiety – the hurricane season.
Island nations from Trinidad in the south to Jamaica and Bermuda in the north wait with bated breath to see what the season will bring. And as we prepare for our festivals with glee, we should also prepare annually for events that can be catastrophic, with far-reaching consequences.
Medical Protection encourages members to have adequate indemnity in anticipation of the unexpected and, similarly, the profession should do the same for adverse weather patterns.
Weather disturbances that involve high winds and torrential rains for extended periods of time have the potential to test our very existence, wellbeing and resilience for six months (June to November) every year. Occasionally these storms extend past the usual hurricane season. They result in damage that can be difficult to quantify in terms of physical, infrastructural, emotional and psychological distress to our islands. A robust medical infrastructure, both private and government based, is essential in withstanding these events.
Practical tips on hurricane preparation
- Have adequate insurance in place.
- Risk assessment and management: how vulnerable is your practice? Consider the susceptibility of your patients – do you have a plan to resume practice to care for the injured or ill after the event? Think how soon this can be effectively done, and whether the physical structure of your practice is storm ready. Can your equipment be safely protected from water and wind damage: do you have a weatherproof records storage system? It’s a good idea for your computer backup for notes, accounts, etc to be in a remote and safe location (cloud based, for example).
- Create a documented disaster plan. Have you identified and recorded a stepwise series of events to be conducted before, during and after the weather event? Good records and documentation create no chance of misinterpretation and accurately record events as they happened.
- Personal care. Have your personal and family needs been identified and managed to ensure the least displacement and suffering?
As is frequently said, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. We cannot predict the frequency, strength or path of hurricanes but as with all seasons, they will visit us annually.