The trinidad Guardian / As usual we were doing what we do best, blame criticise and then call for resignations. Politicians, aggrieved past managers of the ODPM and others seem upset that the managers at the ODPM did not act as expeditiously and efficiently as they expected.

Few, if anyone, are asking what are the regulations, protocol or established procedures that ought to have been followed.

Over the years this writer has been saying that the ODPM is poorly organised and a far cry from what is required for effective emergency management. The solution to the problems at the ODPM lies with structure, not personnel.

The first step in disaster management is an emergency broadcast system (EBS). In the USA the EBS is periodically tested on radio and television. There is a long beeping sound followed by a voice saying that this is the emergency broadcast system and if this was a real emergency the beep would be followed by important information.

In some countries, communities are made aware of an emergency by sirens or horns. In the lesser developed communities, drums communicate an emergency. Even wild animals communicate in a manner that let the masses know that a disaster is impending. In T&T there is no such structure in place. How then can one evaluate the performance of the managers of the ODPM?

Before rushing to blame and fire personnel at the ODPM, there should be structures outlined and made public so that the performance of the emergency response personnel can be evaluated against what is public policy.

The following ought to be structured in the new management model required for an effective emergency response system:

? Develop an emergency broadcast system for radio, television and social media and advertise the structure’

? Outline to the management at the ODPM exactly what steps are to be taken in an emergency, for example, 1) activate the EBS, 2) identify the emergency and the area affected, 3) contact the first responders, etc.

? Put in place and advertise emergency evacuation plans including routes, traffic plan and required personnel for towns, coastal areas and communities along water courses. Place adequate signage along the routes identifying them as emergency routes;

? Identify and advertise the location of the various emergency shelters and indicate the type of care available at such centres. For example, some centres may provide medical care while other may provide meals and others shelter only.  

These are just a few of the fundamentals necessary for an effective emergency response unit. There is need for a much more comprehensive structure. There is need to define the roles of the regional corporation, the army, the police, fire and volunteers to ensure harmony and not overlapping of endeavours or chaos. Once again, we seem to have ignored the opportunity to fix what is wrong and continue along the road of blame.

God bless our nation.

Steve Alvarez


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