The “P” in Preparedness

The events in of this weekend have brought to light a number of issues, none of which goes unnoticed by the residents of Western Trinidad. Every year we face seasonal rains and with it, torrential downpours surprise us every time. These sudden onslaughts always come as a shock to the already strained infrastructure of the urban areas of T&T and has over the years, brought these resources to their knees.

This is a very complex problem that requires a great deal of coordination to solve, thus, the creation of the ODPM. This organization with a clear, yet sometimes obscure mandate becomes visible to the general public like myself, for just a few moments each year. This of course begs the questions of what preparation is being done year round to deal with these annual problems, and just how does the public benefit from the actions being taken by the keepers of the infrastructure we all depend on.

First of all, I’m no expert at the operations of government organizations, but I am confused that the “P” in preparedness isn’t being fully used. As a member of the public Im happy to see periodic messages by text to my cell, of potential weather systems that could be a threat to life and limb. The only messages I have ever seen tho, have only stated that the weather we are experiencing is part of a system, but that we are “Not under and Tropical Storm warning or Threat”.

Now that’s fine, but my questions is, if the kind of destruction and carnage that was experienced in areas of western Trinidad yesterday, is the result of “Normal Weather Patters” then maybe the sensitivity to weather systems that are not considered as “Tropical Storms” should be reconsidered. Maybe a measurement of levels of rainfall should trigger something more than just a text message, and if it already does, why don’t I know about it, I member of the public that lives in a flood prone area and am at risk of loosing my property and, dare I say, much more.

Ultimately, if there is an “Office of Disaster Preparedness”, why do we as the public always feel woefully unprepared when disaster actually strikes. Should the torrential rains of yesterday caused flooding in my area, I would not have know where to go for supplies, or medical attention at temporary on site locations or  developed to deal with localized disasters.

No pamphlets were distributed during the “Dry Season” to train me up in the event of such an incident. No system of converting community centers or schools into shelters or at least, command centers, have been made public for our knowledge in the event of a disaster. I may be wrong but I would like to see more of these things in place.

Now don’t get me wrong. Im not totally negative of the work being done. There has been an obvious increase in the mobilization of resources to the areas affected by these disasters, tho after the fact of destruction. These resources have also brought a great relief to the residents affected, and that is not something to be taken lightly.

The work being done to clear drains and watercourses is also great, but more of a maintenance matter than preparation for a disaster. At the end of the day, this service needs to be one that instills confidence in the public that we are prepared for disasters, when ever they appear. This I think will be the best defense against one of the major problems associated with a disaster, the feeling of not know what to do and when.

Much like the safety briefs done when entering a corporate building for a simple action like a meeting, to the safety briefing on a plane just before the flight takes off. The information is most times ignored but some of the important information sticks with you, at least I always remembered that on a plane, “The closest exit, might be behind me”