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The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) in its role as the national coordinating agency for severe disasters across Trinidad and Tobago, recently hosted a two-day Interagency Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief virtual learning and training exercise. This engagement was held from the 15-16 September, 2020 for key national agencies in disaster management and was executed in partnership with the Military Liaison Office of the US Embassy and the Delaware National Guard (DNG), Trinidad and Tobago’s State Partner.

In the main, the programme was delivered by the DNG and highlighted the emerging international best practices in disaster coordination operations at the national and international levels. In particular, the attending organisations were exercised in multi-agency operations that could involve the ODPM, local partners and the Delaware Guard in the event of a catastrophic disaster event. The facilitators placed emphasis on Disaster Preparation and Operational Planning, Interagency Emergency Response Coordination, Consequence Management, Critical Infrastructure Protection, Common Operational Picture Development, Crisis Communications and Logistical Support in Disaster Environments.

The ODPM ensured that the key national-level response agencies benefitted from the exposure and these included the Trinidad and Tobago (TT) Defence Force; TT Police Service; TT Fire Service; Tobago Emergency Management Agency; Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago; and the Ministries of Rural Development and Local Government; Works and Transport; and Social Development and Family Services.

Initially, the training was scheduled to be delivered in-person during January 2020, but the emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic forced its postponement. Notwithstanding, the ODPM-DNG Team persisted in its planning and decided to adapt to the ‘New Normal’ of virtual learning, recognising the importance of maintaining national-level preparedness during this very over-active Hurricane Season.

The virtual training provided a platform for the DNG and its partners to share their experiences in Interagency Disaster Management Coordination at the State and local levels. In this regard, two of the critical agencies that participated were the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and the Delaware Information and Analysis Center, enabling a rich, cross-fertilisation of ideas and knowledge sharing. The ODPM aims to continue leading such strategic capacity building sessions, to improve national agencies’ delivery of disaster response, relief and communication services to every citizen.

In his closing remarks the CEO of the ODPM, Major General (Retired) Rodney Smart, on behalf of the Minister of National Security, the Honourable Stuart Young, thanked the participants for their attendance and participation in the training. He also expressed his gratitude to Ambassador Joseph Mondello and Col. Claudia Carrizales and her team at the US Embassy. In addition, he thanked Major General Michael Berry, the Adjutant General of the DNG, Lt. Col Timothy Hoyle and the other contributors from Delaware for their invaluable inputs to strengthening the country’s Strategic Disaster Management Capacity.

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