CEO of the ODPM, Major General (Ret’d) Rodney Smart, engages virtual and in-person attendees at the 5th disaster relief simulation exercise, planned specially for representatives of the Private Sector, Civil Society and international bodies, which were represented by the US Embassy. (Image: ODPM)

Representatives of the Private Sector, Civil Society and international assistance providers (represented by the US Embassy), recently participated in a national level, blended, disaster simulation exercise hosted by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), at its offices at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) at Tacarigua.

In a news release, the ODPM explains that the exercise, which was conducted on Friday 12th June 2020, was done in preparation for what has been described as above normal Wet and Hurricane Seasons.

The exercise itself simulated a Category 4 Hurricane impacting Trinidad and Tobago, causing extensive flooding and wind damage to businesses and residential properties, resulting in persons being evacuated to shelters.

The ODPM reports that over 25 of the biggest name brands—identified for their ability to assist in national disaster preparedness and relief—participated either live or virtually, in what was the fifth in a series of Whole of Society simulation exercises.

The ODPM notes that it is using these exercises to prepare societal bodies in the event of any weather-related emergency, while educating persons about the National Response Framework—the protocols for national level disaster response.

According to the ODPM release, in the first phase of the exercise, participants were challenged to think how they were going to prepare their own organisations for the slow onset weather event and the adequacy of their continuity of operations plans. Later, attendees had to critically consider how they could support the national effort to provide relief to displaced persons both in Trinidad and Tobago, while ensuring the safety of their staff, given the health concerns posed by COVID-19.

The ODPM reports that organisations were placed in five working groups, based on their capabilities to provide cooked meals, foodstuff, accommodation, transportation and warehousing, and coordination. This first-time initiative provided a platform for a more integrated approach to strengthening relationships and actions, which ultimately could lead to speedier and more structured delivery of disaster relief to affected individuals and vulnerable populations.

The CEO of the ODPM, Major General (Ret’d) Rodney Smart, underscored the value of the day’s training and expressed his appreciation to attendees for their active participation and vital contributions. He stressed that disaster management is everyone’s business and it is through strong Public, Private and International Partnerships, that T&T would be better prepared and capable of building back faster and stronger, in the event of a disaster.

Major General Smart also extended an invitation to interested individuals and organisations to offer their services to the ODPM, so that Trinidad and Tobago would become an even more disaster-ready and resilient nation.