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ODPM after action review following exercise on March 20th 2013

 

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in an attempt to test our national response and improve the country’s readiness for an earthquake or tsunami, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) developed and executed Exercise OMEGA on March 20th 2013. Subsequent to this, an after action review was held with the participants of the exercise to recount their experiences, discuss the evaluations from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) and examine the lessons learnt and how to improve the systems moving forward.

The exercise saw full participation from the Disaster Management Units (DMU’s) from all fourteen Regional Corporations as well as the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Each DMU was given the freedom to participate in whatever way they saw most fit for their specific region. In the Siparia Region, the Cedros Anglican School was evacuated using members of the Community Emergency Response Team.
In Tunapuna/Piarco, siren alarms were used to warn the communities and twenty one (21) boats that were out at sea were brought in and members of the coastal community evacuated to higher ground. Simultaneously, twelve (12) schools including Hillview College, Bishops Anstey East High School and the Blanchicheusse Early Childhood Centre were evacuated in less than three (3) minutes, along with a senior home and three (3) business places along the Tunapuna Main Road. In total, seven thousand (7000) people were evacuated in this region. The Carli Bay community in the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Region was evacuated and a staging area set up to simulate a triage centre that would treat with medical and sheltering needs. 

Over in the sister isle, TEMA used its Mission Mode system to warn the public and coastline communities were evacuated to safe areas further inland.

Other key players whose support ensured a successful event included the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service, Ministry of Finance, and several other divisions of the Ministry of National Security, the Telecommunications Service of Trinidad and Tobago, the Water and Sewerage Authority, the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, the Ministry of People and Social Development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Global Medical Response of Trinidad and Tobago. The major findings emerging from the exercise were in the areas of communication and public sensitization. It has been reemphasized that during an emergency event, there is need for redundant forms of communication as traditional means will most likely be unavailable. To this end, the ODPM has pledged to assist different agencies in the procurement of radio and satellite telephone equipment.

Public awareness of evacuation routes and the ability to recognize alarm sounds also need to be strengthened and the ODPM along with the DMU’s will be working to ensure that every community member knows how to recognize and act appropriately during an emergency. Special mention was made to address the needs of the vulnerable communities within the country and response plans are being tailored to address these needs to ensure their safety as well.

While the exercise exposed certain gaps that exist within the system, the ODPM and other participating agencies take these as lessons to be learnt in order to strengthen and improve in times of an actual event. The level of participation also indicates the commitment of many people to making Trinidad and Tobago more disaster resilient and ODPM CEO, Dr. Stephen Ramroop has promised another exercise next year to ensure that we remain in practice and are ready to withstand hazard impacts. 

The public is also reminded that their participation is still needed and the deadline for submitting completed exercise handbooks has been extended to April 30th

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