Put more emphasis on post-flood

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

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