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Preparing You! Programme for Special Needs Children

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and the Digicel Foundation completed the final phase of the ‘Preparing You!’ programme. ‘Preparing You!’ began in 2015 and is a disaster management and evacuation emergency programme for persons with special needs. It focused on reducing vulnerability and building the capacity of a marginalized segment of the Trinidad and Tobago population. 

This programme was supported by the Digicel Foundation, The GEF and the Small Grants Programme of the UNDP and The Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAid). These stakeholders directly supported the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management to directly change the lives of over 500 special needs persons and their families and caregivers.

In this pilot phase the programme was implemented in five special schools - The Pointe-a-Pierre Special School, Servol Happy Venture, Lady Hochoy Penal, Rio Claro Learning and Development Centre and Lady Hochoy Gasparillo. 

Through the comprehensive risk assessments by safety officers of the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service, it was identified that some schools needed upgrades before the safety installations. The Digicel Foundation provided further investments to support minor to major upgrades to the facilities, in one instance, one school was completely rebuilt. 

In the second phase- the programme was implemented in three schools – Enaame’s Private School, Aspirare Learning Community and the Tobago School for the Deaf, Hearing and Language Impaired. 

As a direct result of the funding by these stakeholders, safety upgrades were conducted in all schools – installation of strobe lights with visual and audio aids, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, smoke detectors, egress points, muster points and development of evacuation plans and drills.  This project allows all staff members and residents to know their roles and responsibilities during and after an emergency, improves the response to an emergency situation, prevents injuries, saves lives and allows for a quicker return to normal daily operations. Training also was provided by the T&T Fire Service on fire prevention and the use of fire extinguishers, life safety and safe and efficient evacuation.

The closing ceremony took place on Wednesday 15th November, 2017 at the Digicel Box in the Queen’s Park Oval. Mr. Vel Lewis, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Security provided brief remarks on behalf of the Honourable Major General (Ret'd) Edmund Dillon, Minister of National Security. Mr Lewis thanked all stakeholders for their contribution to the upliftment of Trinidad and Tobago. Past participants of the programme were invited to the ceremony. Each child received two first aid kits – for at home and school by the ODPM and promotional items by the Digicel Foundation.

Although the programme is officially closed the emergency plans for each school and the training on conducting evacuation drills will continue to influence disaster preparedness. The instructional videos designed for persons with special needs, where they are the main actors, would continue to reinforce the lessons learned during the programme and educate new students of the schools. Click here for highlights of the programme.


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