By Basil Springer

"The best way to build your future is to build yourself - the best  way to build your organization is to  build your people" - Willie Jolley, author of "A Setback is a Setup for a  Comeback?"

The last week was certainly a rude awakening  for us who take life in our stride in the Caribbean. Hurricane Ivan, the largest hurricane we have experienced for a decade, rang alarm bells in the southern Caribbean.  Ivan  miraculously missed Barbados and the Grenada devastation confirmed what could have been our fate.

Ivan's information was released every three hours and my prediction of the path of the eye of the hurricane, on Monday  afternoon, revealed that it would pass through the coordinates, 13 degrees  North and 59.5 degrees West, a direct hit on Barbados. I tend to be among the group of people who claim not to panic in situations like these but I must confess that, armed with this information, I heeded the insistent call from my family to remove the patio furniture to safer shelter.  

I was praying that Ivan would take a sharp turn to the North as many other hurricanes have done in the past, so that Barbados would not receive the full force of the hurricane.  Of course, my prayers were magnified  for Ivan to effect a sharpness of turn, which would be sufficient to spare the island chain. In fact the opposite happened. Over a six-hour period beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, Ivan's latitude dipped from 11.4 N to 11.1 N before Ivan  resumed its West North Westerly climb at the same rate as before. This change took place at precisely the longitude and for the right length of time to avoid a direct hit on Barbados.  

There were times on Tuesday when the three or four second gusts of wind, probably less than 100 mph, increased the tension as we waiting to hear and see what would give under such severe wind stress.

Barbados having escaped a direct hit, the  projections unfortunately revealed a likely direct hit on Grenada if the  hurricane continued on its predicated path. The rest is history. Total devastation in Grenada. Apparently no family was spared and others survived only with their lives. Some did not. Jamaica was clearly on the radar after Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao as Ivan traversed the Caribbean Sea at Storm categories 4 and 5, even worse than what Grenada experienced. The ABC islands escaped, being south of Ivan's path, but alas Jamaica would not. It was  predicted to be a hurricane worse than Gilbert in 1988.  At the time of writing this column,  Friday at 7 pm, storm surges and wind damage have already been experienced.  It was reported that some fluctuations in intensity are likely before Ivan moves over Jamaica where the effects of the high terrain may weaken the hurricane. It is possible  that Ivan will re-strengthen some between the Cayman Islands and Cuba where there is a very high oceanic heat content and the shear is expected to remain  weak.  Once in the Gulf of Mexico,  the shear is forecast to increase and Ivan should gradually weaken. However,  Ivan is expected to remain a dangerous hurricane until it reaches the United States.

In the best of times we talk about job security.  One of the major  promises of a Trade Union to its members is to ensure their job security. In  times of devastation, the likes of which Grenada is experiencing, no one can really help with job security- not even the unions.  Spare a thought for those homeless and  jobless people of Grenada and other countries in its path as they embark on the recovery course. They might well be encouraged and comforted by the title  of a book by Willie Jolley,  entitled "A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback".

Out of despair rises hope.  One heartening feature in the context of human response to such utter devastation is the quick way in which the regional public sector, private sector, service clubs, friends and family, and indeed the international community, have responded to providing help to those  less fortunate. It has taken a crisis for us to exhibit the pooling of resources, which presumably is one of the tenets of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. We talk about the fragility of the tourist industry but when a natural disaster hits we literally experience the phenomenon "here today gone tomorrow". If nothing else, such an experience causes us to think  about those less fortunate than ourselves and to wonder what we can do to  prepare ourselves for such an eventuality. The above quotation gives us a hint.  It suggests that the best way to build one's future is to build oneself and by extension the best way to  build an organisation is to build its people.

We should  all bear in mind that whether we are in times of comfort or whether we are  rebuilding after a disaster, the best Job  Security!

In  Barbados, fortuitously, it is now business as usual and the Counterpart  Caribbean fund raising golf tournament, which was postponed when Ivan visited  last Tuesday, will now be held on Tuesday 14 September at the Royal  Westmoreland Golf Club.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) -