There needs to be more emphasis on post-flood or aftermath analysis in T&T by the relevant authorities in Government via State agencies including the Office of Disaster Preparedness Management (ODPM) and the Ministries of Local Government and Works and Transport.
This, according to Commander Garvin Heerah, who is a senior researcher Anglia Ruskin University UK and who spoke to the T&T Guardian based on a joint consultation UK Fellows Oxford Research chapters, David Alexander on Disaster and Emergency Planning for Preparedness, Response and Recovery.
Delivering a post mortem on the recent flooding experienced throughout the country that still left affected citizens grappling to get back their lives to normal, some of them having lost everything, Heerah said he believes that there was failure to pre- position assets prior.
“In this way when the waters began to rise, the residences became under threat and the need for resources and rescues escalated, the assets and the personnel would’ve already been in position or quite close, avoiding the delays we experienced,” Heerah said.
“There needed to be a greater concept of coordination and utilising more so maximising the Communication Grid. A lot of the supportive and rescue communications that was experienced was based on the common citizen and self constructed networks,” he added.
Heerah said the relevant authorities did not follow the “PEACHES” framework which is there for guidance.
This framework, he explained, identifies the key areas of concerns and allows the state to distribute and disperse subject matter experts related to each field.
Heerah further explained the “PEACHES” framework: P is the Psychological Impact PTSD; E—Economic Impact, including claims and insurances, more importantly the impact on the wider society of TT, prices, shortages and availability; A—Assessments but not just inventories, assessments of lessons learnt and failures to avoid re-occurrences; C—The Impact of criminal activity and opportunities to commit crime; H—Health factors, illnesses and sickness due to contamination. The setting up of field hospitals and care givers in the harder hit communities; E—Environmental impact, the extent of our failure to be Environmentally conscious not only as a State but as a people. This impact has affected us tremendously and S—The Social services and the expanse of the Social services network available to the affected citizens.
Heerah said as a major component of any Disaster Management plan there needs to be a greater emphasis on air cover and air support.
“Air support cannot be confined to sorties and recces only, over affected areas. It must be fully utilised in the form of rescues, delivery of supplies and equipment and the provision of overhead Onscene Command Authority. The technology onboard these assets were under utilised.
“Traffic management is also a key factor. But to properly apply Traffic Management processes, there must be a greater level of contingency planning and asking the ‘What Ifs’.
Yes, we saw attempts and success in certain applications to this need, but it was clear that there were great periods of uncertainty, being overwhelmed and failure in contingency planning,” he added.
According to his research and joint consultations, Heerah stressed that emergency and disaster planning involves a coordinated, co-operative process of preparing to match urgent needs with available resources.
“The phases are research, writing, dissemination, testing, and updating. Hence, an emergency plan needs to be a living document that is periodically adapted to changing circumstances and that provides a guide to the protocols, procedures, and division of responsibilities in emergency response,” he said.
“Emergency planning is an exploratory process that provides generic procedures for managing unforeseen impacts and should use carefully constructed scenarios to anticipate the needs that will be generated by foreseeable hazards when they strike. Failure to plan can be construed as negligence because it would involve failing to anticipate needs that cannot be responded to adequately by improvisation during an emergency,” he added.
Reporter: Rhondor Dowlat