CEO of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) retired Major General Rodney Smart says while public attitudes towards disaster preparedness are gradually changing, there is still a lot of work to be done to mitigate against this risk in TT.
Speaking at a press conference on National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness (NDPP) month at the ODPM's Mausica office earlier in the week, Smart said several public information campaigns will be rolled out in May to engage with citizens at the individual, family and community levels to build capacities and preparedness for disasters.
Asked if he felt there would be any resistance to adopting a more focused approach to disaster response, Smart said he felt the covid19 pandemic and the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines last month contributed to changing the perception of citizens.
"All those hazards are indicators to TT that a disaster can happen anywhere, in the North and South Caribbean and I think Trinidadians and Tobagonians are beginning to realise that.
"Some communities are naturally stronger than others when it comes to disaster risk reduction and preparedness, what we are hoping to do from a community perspective is to continue supporting the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government whose remit is community strengthening.
"We are also hoping through various international and regional organisations to bring resources to TT that would further strengthen communities."
Smart said he could not give a ranking of how prepared different communities in TT were in dealing with a potential disaster as they each had different strengths, he was confident the NDPP initiatives would be the first step in sensitising the public to disaster mitigation techniques they could adopt.
For his part ODPM regional co-ordinator Jaishima Gowandan also called on citizens to be more proactive in securing their homes and ensuring their safety to prepare for natural disasters.
Referring to the volcanic eruptions in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the seemingly relaxed approach the public has towards disaster mitigation, Gowandan said preparedness was needed now more than ever.
"We need to keep reminding our population that God is no longer a Trini and look how close to home an event like that occurred.
"We need to keep reminding people to drive the point home to persons so they can be reminded of what can happen in our regional environment."
The initiatives that will be introduced in May will include tabletop simulations for Tsunami alerts in Carenage, community training for basic search and rescue, sandbag wall construction and the distribution of Spanish language brochures to migrants to inform them on the location of shelters and common natural disasters experienced in the region.