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Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management Corporate Service Manager Major (Retired) Chevalier Jackson, centre, poses for a photo with TEMA Public Information Education and Training Supervisor Melissa Yearwood, right, and Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government Hayden Charles, left, during the handing over of field tablets for use in Damage and Needs Assessment (DANA) in Mausica yesterday.

Disaster management officials across various state agencies are now better equipped to conduct damage assessment (DANA) and needs analysis if a disaster strikes Trinidad and Tobago.

On Thursday, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) handed over 18 tablets to the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government (MoRDLG) and two to the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).

These tablets, donated by the United States Embassy’s Military Liaison Office and Miyamoto, are expected to allow disaster management officials to quickly complete DANA reports and send them to the respective state agencies.

When a disaster, like high winds, a flood, or a landslide occurs, a damage assessment and needs analysis are done by councilors attached to Trinidad’s municipal corporations and by TEMA.

According to ODPM’s Corporate Service Manager Major (Retired) Chevalier Jackson, “Before 2019, when personnel from the various disaster management units and TEMA collected data and needs assessments, which we call DANA, collected those data on paper-based forms. The information collated on paper took approximately 24 to 72 hours to process after an impactful event.”

These analysis reports are completed to obtain a more detailed and accurate evaluation of the damage caused to each sector and the economic cost of that damage generally within 48 hours after a disaster. When completed and collated by respective municipal corporations, the information is then sent to the ODPM and the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services to further process disaster relief aid from the state.

Jackson lamented, “This process was lengthy, labour-intensive and susceptible to errors caused by further undue delays while requests for assistance were being processed.”

He further added, “Several multi-stakeholder meetings were held with various interest groups to devise a solution for this issue. Emerging from these discussions were recommendations for the procurement of field tablet devices and the development of a digital geo-reference form that can relay data almost instantaneously.”

The ODPM worked with the Ministry of National Security and other agencies to establish an enterprise geographic information system platform as the backbone for the new electronic DANA reporting system.