I’ve been observing a few things that have concerned me over the past few weeks and I would like to raise a public safety alert. First was the prominent headline in the news recently about a tourist death at Cane Garden Bay. In conversation with a restaurant owner on the beach, I heard that there have been five swimming-related deaths in the last five years at CGB, and if you were to search the news sites you would find others at beaches at Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda in the last few years.
For me, this is alarming: As a vacation destination we should take the safety of residents and visitors very seriously and invest in the necessary resources, such as the lifeguard programme, to keep beach patrons safe. It is not just about rescuing people from the water but monitoring conditions in real time and being first responders onsite in the event of an emergency. We are avidly marketing sun, sea and sand around the world, but it would seem there is fine print that says “swim at your own risk,” and people are left to their own devices. The negative publicity that headlines like these carry can do irreparable damage to our image if the matter is not investigated and the proper solutions not put in place. Situations like these to me are equivalent to having a high crime rate.
I was also quite frightened the other day to see a tourist in a motorised wheelchair travelling along the side of the road on Waterfront Drive. This is a very unsafe situation and plays out in many areas of Road Town because the sidewalks, if they exist, are in bad shape and unusable or inaccessible by wheelchairs. It is important that we take our responsibility to our guests seriously and ensure that they do not have to take unnecessary risks while enjoying their time here. There has been talk for many years about addressing the chronic issues in the capital (pedestrian traffic vs. vehicular traffic; crosswalks; sidewalks; signage and so on). We can’t afford to wait on the cruise ship dock project, but need to act now.
Another road safety issue is water running across the road at the entrance to the incinerator plant. Water and concrete is never a good mix and to add other fluids and a corner is asking for trouble. Proper drainage needs to be installed in this area to mitigate a dangerous situation.
Also for safety reasons, we need to implement a proper addressing system across the territory. In this “modern era” in such a small territory, people should be able to receive basic directions that will get them safely to their destinations without much assistance. Addressing is also very important when it comes to emergency services. The time it takes for fire, police or ambulance personnel to respond to a call because of inadequate directions could mean life or death.
Recent press about factors that foster crime is another public safety issue that needs urgent attention. It also highlights that it is not just for the government to act on through proactive planning: Landlords and business owners also must do their part in safeguarding property and life through adequate lighting and security measures that dissuade criminal activity. I can testify that the parking lots on Waterfront Drive are wonderful during the daytime, but at night they can get eerily dark at sunset and present an unsafe environment.
So let’s do the math. Lifeguards on all public beaches: $100s. Streetlights: $1,000s. Sidewalk upgrades: $10,000s. Human life is priceless. Remember: It’s the small things that make a big difference. Done the talk, time for action!