Thursday 22 August, 2019

ODPM 'better prepared' for disasters

Flashback: Damage sustained following an earthquake in Trinidad in August 2018.

Flashback: Damage sustained following an earthquake in Trinidad in August 2018.

Last October's massive flooding in Greenvale and other communities served as a "wake up call" for this country.

This is according to Chairman of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) Captain Neville Wint.

Speaking at a Public Administration and Appropriations Committee meeting on Wednesday, Wint said disaster risk management was not something that was taken seriously but the floods, as well as the 6.9 earthquake that rocked the country last August, has woken people up to the fact that Trinidad and Tobago is in a hazard-prone area. 

He said those events have made every agency review how they respond to disasters.

Wint said the greatest lesson learned in the aftermath of the flooding, earthquake, and aftershocks was the rush for information.

The ODPM had been criticised for its perceived lack of a timely response and coordination of information to the public. 

However, Wint said it was clear that information that had been put out by the ODPM and other agencies had not been taken to heart. 

He said agencies, including the relevant Ministries, are now working together to ensure that a plan is in place. 

But he said there is a lot of work to be done and the public must play its part. 

"Society needs to understand that risk management is a part of your daily life," Wint said.  "It has to be a part of your routine."

Questioned by Committee member Clarence Rambharat what the ODPM is doing differently ahead of the 2019 rainy season, Wint said coordination between disaster response agencies has been improved.

"The steps we are taking is to ensure that we have a greater level of coordination between the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government and other key stakeholders. We have advanced our community outreach programmes as far as we could and we are engaging the schools and the community."

Overall, Wint said the ODPM is ready to respond to a natural disaster. But he said the severity of the disaster will impact upon how ready the country is. 

"We are in a better place. We are not where I would like us to be and that will take time, as we have incidents we are learning. We are learning from the mistakes as we identify certain things. But yes, I am satisfied that we are in a better place than we were last year."

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