ODPM CEO: Blackout showed room for improvement

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE February 16 Trinidad-wide blackout, showed there is room for improvement in the response to such incidents.

Retired Maj-Gen Rodney Smart, CEO of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), made this observation to the media at the opening of the ODPM’s second mobile caravan for disaster preparedness and management on Harris Promenade, San Fernando on Friday.

Ae Cabinet-appointed expert committee to investigate the cause of the blackout, which affected all of Trinidad for a total of 12.5 hours, found a large falling fungus-infected palmiste tree was responsible.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales laid the committee’s report in the House of Representatives on April 29y. The committee was chaired by Chandrabhan Sharma, retired professor of electrical and computer engineering at UWI, and included former T&TEC chairman Keith Sirju, and acting police Supt Allister Guevarro.

The committee categorically ruled out sabotage as the cause of the outage.

It was not satisfied with the response of some key agencies in the aftermath.

Smart described the blackout as a technological hazard.

“What we saw happening was cascading effects because it is electricity.”

He said when the blackout happened, several other sectors were affected.

When these situations happen, Smart continued, the ODPM and other agencies work to support the lead agency, which was the TT Electricity Commission (T&TEC) in the case of the blackout.

Smart noted the committee’s dissatisfaction with the response of some agencies in the blackout’s aftermath.

“Some training with regard to how the national response framework operates seems to have been missing.” He suggested a better understanding of how various agencies co-ordinate operations in response to incidents was one lesson to be learnt from the blackout.

On the caravan, Smart said it was a continuation of the work by the ODPM and other agencies to educate the public on disaster preparedness and management. This is particularly important, he continued, with the start of the wet season and, soon, the Atlantic hurricane season.

Smart said through the work of a national disaster and preparedness multi-sectoral commmittee, the ODPM and other agencies continue their preparations to respond to any disaster.

“This committee meets throughout the year.”

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