Thursday 9 July, 2020

Under shadow of COVID-19, ODPM prepares for Wet/Hurricane Season

Photo: A Barrackpore family whose home was damaged by flooding in 2019.

Photo: A Barrackpore family whose home was damaged by flooding in 2019.

Under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country must now prepare to deal with the approaching Wet/Hurricane Season and the possibility of flash and riverine flooding.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) said it has ramped up preparations for the upcoming Wet Season which begins from June 1, 2020.

In a statement issued Friday, the ODPM said a meeting was held with stakeholder agencies involved in relief and recovery operations to prepare for the rainy season, which has in years past been accompanied by flooding due to heavy rainfall events.

The ODPM said on April 29 an initial strategy planning and preparation session was held at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC).

The ODPM noted that this year’s Hurricane Season has been predicted to be an above-normal one.

“This year’s upcoming Hurricane Season has been predicted to be an above-normal one and mixed in with the presence of COVID-19, the ODPM recognises that there is a dire need for Trinidad and Tobago to be in an even stronger state of readiness than previously.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting many nations around the globe and a paradigm shift has occurred in the manner in which people interact daily.

“For example one such shift is the requirement for social distancing. This consideration, along with the potential impacts of adverse weather conditions will undoubtedly pose a challenge for the response and support agencies in 2020.

The ODPM said stakeholders were presented with a hurricane impact scenario that required critical and creative thinking around the complexities posed by the COVID-19 environment.

Some of the areas discussed were regarding disaster relief and recovery operations, evacuation operations and protocols, search and rescue operations, shelter management observing physical distancing requirements, medical support and isolation requirements, and humanitarian assistance and relief distribution.

ODPM CEO Major General (Ret’d) Rodney Smart chaired the interactive session. Also in attendance were Jerry David, Hazel-Ann Cummings, of the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, Patti-Ann Williams of the Ministry of Health, Troy Pollonais and Deidra Sampson of the Ministry of Social Development, Stephan Kishore of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society, alongside Navindra Persad and Eric Mackie of the ODPM.

The ODPM said stakeholders who have grappled with the challenges alongside the COVID-19 experience, will now revise their Agencies’ emergency plans and procedures which will now feed into the National Response Plan.

The ODPM said the meeting also reiterated the need for citizens, while contending with the pandemic, to utilise the time at home to begin preparing for the Wet/Hurricane Season.

Over the past few years, intense rainfall events have led to flash and riverine flooding, causing damage to thousands of homes across Trinidad and Tobago.

In December 2019, government approved $2 million in emergency relief for people affected by flooding.

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