The Office for Disaster Preparedness Management (ODPM) is ready for the upcoming rainy season and is ready to help citizens in distress should there be an emergency. This was the confident message conveyed by retired captain Neville Wint as he addressed the Public Administration and Appropriation Committee last Wednesday during their 47th meeting held in the parliament building, Port of Spain.
Wint, who was recently appointed as ODPM’s Operations Manager, admitted that he still believed the organization could be in a better place to face disasters.
“Am I satisfied that we are in a better place? Yes we are in a better place but we are not where I would like us to be and that will take time,” he said. Many difficult lessons were learnt from the flooding that occurred during last October, he added.
One of the reasons that the ODPM is ready is because a number of critical job vacancies have been filled like operations manager which Wint recently took up. He was previously the relief officer.
Wint said that he still believes as a society we have not taken disaster readiness seriously and that the floods and the earthquakes of 2018 served as a wakeup call. He added that one of the ways that we can react better to these types of situations is by making disaster preparedness a part of our everyday routine.
There is now better communication between the relevant agencies and the ODPM which will help if there is need for emergency services. He added that ODPM had begun community outreach programs and had already visited 25 schools in an effort to spread the word about being ready.
“Within the next two weeks we will be allocating a series of stores (food supplies) to the various agencies including TT Police service, TT Fire Service and the TT Defense Force. Part of this preparation activity is to ensure at least some level of support.”
There will also be a greater effort to provide the necessary equipment like generators and mosquito foggers to the various agencies. ODPM also has nine dinghies which will be shared among the agencies if there is an emergency.
Another effort to get ready for the rainy season is a volunteer emergency response training program being run by the Ministry of Rural Development and Local government. Senior disaster management coordinator Jerry David said about 500 people have already been trained around the country so far.
David was very enthusiastic about the program. He said during a disaster the first person that you would encounter before emergency responders may be your neighbor and if your neighbor is trained it would help your chance of survival.
David added that it was very important to build emergency preparedness resilience in communities and that it was his hope that at least 100 000 people could be trained over the next few years. The ministry has also visited 75 schools to help educate students about disaster preparedness.
The regional corporations are also ready to assist if the need arises, Deputy Permanent Secretary Raymond Seepaul added. Even though they are not fully staffed he believed if the need arose regional corporations would be able to grant assistance especially for cleaning up after floods. He said attempts were also being made to train some of the staff in disaster preparedness.
He complained that some of the money that had been outlined for the corporations had not yet been received from the finance ministry. This he said was a hold back in purchasing the necessary equipment for smooth operations.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Suzette Taylor Lee Chee revealed that a new policy which will help expand the current disaster coverage insurance was being sent to cabinet for approval later this week.