The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) took some blows for its slow response to Tropical Storm Bret which devasted parts of the country last year, especially in the South and Central Trinidad.
Yesterday, Captain Neville Wint, Relief officer and officer in charge of the ODPM assured lessons have been learnt from this experience, lessons which will better prepare them to treat with the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.
Although confident they are prepared for the season, Wint said their preparedness could be tested based on the severity of the impact of the hazard. He said in addition to the hurricane season, TT is also in an earthquake zone.
“It takes only one organised system to cause damage and as such persons are reminded not to leave anything to chance. God is not a Trini.”
He gave as an example the concentrated rainfall which flooded Port of Spain recently. He said in one hour there was 16 ml of water impacting on Port of Spain and environs and within another 45 minutes it had risen to 84 ml.
“With a high tide, nothing could have been done to mitigate that impact,” Wint said as he appealed to citizens to be ready and stay ready during an inter-agency media conference hosted by the Ministry of Health on the state of readiness for the 2018 rainy season at City Hall, San Fernando on Tuesday.
He said various agencies critical to the preparation and management of hurricanes and other hazards, have made adjustments based on lessons learnt from the last season, both locally and regionally.
“We have improved and strengthened our programmes, there has been a lot of consultations with the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government and the Ministry of Health and other agencies.”
He said shelters are ready, the necessary public education programmes are being carried out and guidelines have been posted on their website.
Still he said, “The ODPM is pleading with the population of TT to be extra vigilant during this season, especially those who are living in low lying areas or conduct business and even recreation. We are also appealing to people to pay attention to weather forecast and information being issued by the various agencies.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said government is doing its part to mitigate flooding and individuals must also play their role. He related an incident in Diego Martin on Labour Day when he witnessed a refrigerator, tyres, grocery cart and pieces of bamboo floating in the river.
“Then we ask ourselves, ‘what the government doing to prevent flooding’.” Deyalsingh said.
He also appealed to people who live in flood-prone areas and who may have health challenges, to keep at least one week’s supply of medication on hand.
He said there will be coordinated land and air response, along with dingys to evacuate people who are trapped or ill and spaces will be created at the various hospitals should their situation require hospitalisation.