"Ill-advised and precipitous."
Twenty emergency service agencies and over 24 schools took part in the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management’s (ODPM) Earthquake/Tsunami drill yesterday. Schools across the country joined with the ODPM, fire officers and emergency services in evacuation drills for natural disasters in an effort for the ODPM the gather information on the public’s response to disasters.
“Because Trinidad is blessed and people like to say things like ‘God is a Trini,’ it makes it harder for the ODPM to help the country be prepared. “Unlike other islands in the Caribbean, we don’t get a lot of hurricanes or natural disasters here so people don’t feel the need to prepare,” said ODPM chairman Stephen Ramroop. He said the ODPM was placing an emphasis on engagement and getting people to understand their role during national disasters.
He said the ODPM also focused yesterday on business continuity management. “Most companies keep their generators and human resource records in basements or on lower floors but if a tsunami were to hit the country those would be completely destroyed. “We are helping businesses understand their responsibilities such as the best places for storage of records, keeping food and water on hand and where to place back up generators.”
He said the drills proved successful in terms of participation. “We tested the ability of persons to get to the ODPM and the National Emergency Operation Centre in Port-of-Spain during morning traffic from San-Fernando,” Ramroop said it took over an hour an a half by car to get from the southern city to Port-of-Spain and 35 minutes by helicopter.
In less than three hours we were able to gather the necessary responders and set up a main command centre in Port-of-Spain. Ramroop said drills should not end with yesterday’s ODPM exercise. “We want communities to do their own drills and submit questionnaires to us either online or through corporations. “It will give us an idea of how many people are taking this seriously.”
Ramroop said in additional to schools and regional corporations, foreign missions, Government ministries and the United Nations also did drills. He said the ODPM had also used the assistance of the Defence Force to secure supermarkets as food distribution points.