Minister of National Security Stuart Young today expressed disappointment at the lack of communication available when disaster struck Greenvale residents last year.
At a three-day national disaster preparedness workshop which kicked off at the Trinidad Hilton today, he said it was why a national strategy is necessary to determine what is needed and what must be done in a disaster.
“It is all about communication,” Young said, “knowing who are the parts of the team and having those open lines of communication so we could get to the various bodies.
"I was very disappointed during that process that I could not get within a few minutes what are the various assets we have in the various parts of the country.”
Young said when flooding hit Greenvale, the first responders had very little information on what was happening, and on that night disaster management bodies scrambled to gather resources to help residents. He commended the first responders for doing their job despite being literally and figuratively in the dark.
“The general population will not understand how difficult it is for first responders,” Young said. “Going into Greenvale, electricity is on the ground so an early decision was made to cut off electricity. We didn’t want anyone to be electrocuted on the ground.
"We finally get the defence force in on flat water boats, but it is pitch black. Can you imagine going into an area, and it being pitch black and you don’t know the landscape?
"Complicate that now with floodwaters that have risen and covered cars and flats. People are now retreating to their second floor. You are being put on the ground and being told go and rescue people, but you don’t know how many people were there, and you don’t know exactly what you are going into.”
The three-day workshop is expected to feature advice from the Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC), which works with government agencies to do assessments and create mitigation strategies that would better prepare agencies for the next time disaster strikes.
Yesterday, the workshop did the baseline assessment, and looked at the media’s role in disaster management, as well as problem areas of the current disaster management plan.
Young hoped that by the end of the workshop, the government would have a new best practice when dealing with disasters.
He added thatthe lesson to be learned coming out of Greenvale is: "We need to be prepared. Because global warming is real...TT is unfortunately going to be facing natural disasters. We are not going to be in our positions forever.
"We must leave behind us, at minimum, when a disaster is taking place a person could walk in the room, pull a manual and open it and it tells them what to do, step by step. If we could achieve that it would be a massive achievement.”