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MEDIA RLEASE- ODPM HOSTS INTER-AGENCY BLACKOUT REVIEW

MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday 29th March, 2022                                                                                                                        For Immediate Release

ODPM HOSTS INTER-AGENCY BLACKOUT REVIEW

On Friday 25, March 2022, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) hosted a blended National After Action Review (AAR) for key response and support agencies that mobilised for the island-wide power outage on February 16, 2022. This critical review was the second stage of similar sessions that occurred at the organisational level and provided representatives with a non-attribution platform to share and learn from each other’s experiences.

In delivering the opening remarks, the CEO of the ODPM, Major General (Retired) Rodney Smart, emphasised the importance of discussions being forthright and solution-oriented. He indicated that the focus of the workshop was on improving national response to the power outage, within the wider, multi-hazard context. He also stressed the criticality of the event as it was happening at a time when the ODPM was leading an initiative to develop a Comprehensive National Disaster Management Policy, a Policy Implementation Plan, while simultaneously revising the country’s Disaster Act.

The AAR took a systemic approach to understanding the complexities of responding in a unified manner to a prolonged power outage, which, because of its multi-dimensional nature, often results in cascading, negative, cross-sectoral effects. The 25 agencies that participated in the reflective and progressive review, were arranged into four (4) synergistic clusters, depending on where interdependencies were the strongest. These clusters were Utilities; Public Safety and Security; Ministries and Public Services; and Social and Financial Services.

Utilities

From the analysis conducted, the Utilities Cluster was the most challenged, given their interconnectedness and heavy dependency on electricity for their operations. This group comprised representatives from agencies responsible for the provision of utilities and communication services such as T&TEC, WASA, TSTT and Digicel. Discussions focused on the probable cause and effects of the island-wide power outage.

The blackout was initiated when an electrical system fault occurred along the transmission circuit which connects the electrical grid to Trinidad Generation Unlimited, Union Estate. The challenge for this cluster was maintaining normal service levels while losing 100% of electricity. To reduce service disruption to customers, companies utilised their generators, however, in most instances, the prolonged outage affected their ability to sustain services at normal levels. The group underscored the value in undertaking assessments such as the AAR, as it helps agencies to strengthen their operational readiness and networking capabilities.

Security/Public Safety

The Security and Public Safety cluster naturally included agencies such as the Defence Force, Police Service, Fire Service and the Prisons Service. This group highlighted the sound inter-agency coordination that took place resulting from strong relationships developed over years of collaboration and working together. Officials were on site at major arteries to manage traffic flow while ensuring citizens remained safe and the country’s borders protected. The group also recognised the need to encourage the more frequent use of Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Radios as a redundant form of communications between agencies.

Ministries and Public Services

This cluster comprised the key Ministries that would be expected to maintain service delivery during a prolonged power outage such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Energy & Energy Industries, Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, and the Ministry of Works and Transport. Members of this group highlighted that most of their main offices’ generators were operational and allowed for business continuity. The Ministry of Health also shared with the group that they were able to maintain services to critical patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU), operation theatres and kept vaccines safe from spoilage at controlled temperatures. The team recommended that key areas in the Energy Sector’s continuity plans should be bolstered to assist them in the event of power outages.

Social and Financial Service

Representatives from the social and financial sectors such as the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank were core to the composition of this grouping. This cluster also contained the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and whilst Tobago was not directly impacted, their insights were thought to be valuable. Agencies in this sector were able to keep their computer systems online and mitigated the possibility of any cyber-attacks. TEMA indicated that they were on standby and ready to provide support to Trinidad if it became necessary. The group recommended the importance of further strengthening inter-agency telecommunications systems.

The ODPM will combine the rich feedback received from the four (4) clusters into a report that will be shared with the Minister of National Security and the leadership of the agencies that participated in the AAR. This will allow agencies to utilise the information to reinforce their strengths, while implementing changes in areas needing improvements. Additionally, the recommendations will be integrated into the three (3) strategic disaster management documents that are being developed.

In closing, Major General Smart thanked all the representatives for their energetic participation in the AAR and extended his gratitude to the ODPM team, under the Operation Manager’s leadership, for a well-executed workshop. He encouraged participants to “view the power outage as a rehearsal for what may be ahead of us and know that it is only by working collaboratively, can we overcome challenges and strengthen Trinidad and Tobago’s disaster readiness and resilience”.

 

PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS

 

Photo and Caption 1: Representatives of several key agencies participating in the National After Action Review (AAR) of the island-wide power outage on February 16, 2022. (Seated Top Left) CEO of the ODPM, Major General (Ret’d) Rodney Smart and (standing at the podium) Manager of the Operations Unit, Mr. Dennis Marcelle, welcoming virtual and physical participants at the ODPM’s NEOC, Mausica.

Photo and Caption 2: A cross-section of some of the participants in the ODPM’s National (AAR) at the NEOC, Mausica, (Left front row) Manager, Operations Unit, Mr. Dennis Marcelle; T&TEC’s HSE  Manager (Ag), Ms. Chrystal Joseph; CEO of the ODPM, Maj Gen (Ret’d) Rodney Smart; T&TEC’s Corporate Communications Manager, Ms. Annabelle Brasnell; ODPM’s Radio Room Signaller, LCpl. Charlene Williams-Joseph; TTFS’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Andy Hutchinson  (Left back row) Head of NOFC, Lt. Col. Dexter Metivier; IT Manager, SSS, Mr. Junior Dell; TTR (Ag) Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Jason Hills; Digicel’s Head Network Operations, Mr. Devendra Desaine; ODPM’s NCO ic Radio Room, Cpl. Yigael Baboolal; ODPM’s ICT Specialist, Maj (Ret’d) Fareed Mohammed; TTPS O.C.C, Cpl. Richard Prince and Sergeant Navin Dass. 

 

To view the full version of the Media Release please click here. 

 

 

 

 

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