N Touch
Monday 18 February 2019
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Lessons from a rotting pole

YESTERDAY we lamented apparent lapses in arrangements at a State corporation that provides a vital service, namely the Public Transport Service Corporation. Today we turn our attention to yet another public utility that is guilty of signal failure, the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT).

Initial reports suggest TSTT’s failure to efficiently address complaints in relation to a rotten utility pole and low-hanging wires in Rousillac played a role in the death of Ulrick John, 40. Initial reports suggest a truck snagged several TSTT cables near John’s home, bringing down a rotten pole which hit him. John’s grieving mother Almena Baptiste, 72, was left to mourn.

“TSTT came four years ago and they promised to move the pole,” she said. “They promised, but four years passed and nothing. If that pole was not here, my son would have been alive today.”

TSTT’s assurance on Tuesday that it will thoroughly investigate this incident rings hollow in light of its apparent failure, over a period of years, to maintain its public facilities in the area. Baptiste’s claim that the utility failed to deliver on its own promise is one thing, but the simple fact that a dangerous pole had been left standing for so long is another. And low-hanging cables should have been attended too. We are left to question whether TSTT’s systems are working to ensure poles and wires throughout the country are relatively safe.

The problem may not be limited to TSTT alone. The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (TTEC) has had similar issues. It was only in June that a concrete TTEC pole fell across a street in San Fernando. Back then, San Fernando Business Association president Daphne Bartlett urged utilities to do checks.

“It is probably a warning for them to go out and look for rotted poles, especially in populated areas, and replace them because it could be devastating to people,” Bartlett was quoted as saying. Was anybody listening?

We express condolences to John’s family and loved ones and offer our sympathies to the other individuals affected by Tuesday’s incident.

As citizens of this country, we are entitled to basic facilities and infrastructure. Without them, our quality of life would be steadily diminished.

Some may dismiss Tuesday’s incident as a freak accident. But the truth is it is possible for lessons to be learnt from what occurred. Those lessons could help hold officials accountable and prevent a recurrence. Vehicles snag overhanging lines with an alarming degree of regularity.

All utilities should take stock of these developments and ensure their systems are working to safeguard members of the public and their employees. If our utilities keep falling down, then some form of Cabinet-level intervention will be needed.

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