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Opening of the ODPM NEOC
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER WELCOME ADDRESS FOR THE RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER
Welcome to the National Emergency Operations Centre.
To say it has taken us some time to get to this point is an understatement, we have endured from legal to financial to environmental issues, but finally I can stand before you today and formally welcome you to this building.
Prior to the existence of the ODPM, our country was primarily focused on responding to the consequences of disasters. Our first major attempt came subsequent to the impact of Hurricane Flora in 1963 when the National Emergency Relief Organisation (NERO) was formed. In 1989, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) replaced NERO representing a paradigm shift in disaster management efforts for Trinidad and Tobago. A preparedness component was added to the already existing response and recovery elements and more emphasis was placed on coordination. During the years that followed, the global frameworks began to move away from the traditional response-centric approach to a focus on disaster risk reduction based on vulnerability, risk assessment and disaster management.
In 2004, the world was transfixed on what has been described as one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history – the Indonesian Earthquake and resulting Tsunami. Closer to home, Hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc in Grenada and other Caribbean countries while Hurricane Katrina followed in 2005 and became the costliest natural disaster in US history. These global catastrophic events served as catalysts to yet another paradigm shift and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) was born. The ODPM took a more holistic approach than its predecessors through Comprehensive Disaster Management, incorporating elements of prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. Since its inception, the ODPM has placed great emphasis on reducing the vulnerabilities of our people and building the resilience of our nation. The National Emergency Operations Centre in which you are sitting today is an extremely significant stepping stone on the path to achieving this goal.
Today marks the culmination of a project that began seven years ago in 2009 with a financial commitment from the United States Southern Command through its Humanitarian Assistance Programme, to which we are ever so grateful for their agreeance to continue this stand-alone project.
Following the official handover in January 2016, we have utilised the NEOC for several training sessions with our stakeholders to concretise multiple agencies’ awareness of roles and responsibilities as it pertains to Disaster Risk Management, some of which we have displayed today. These include:
1. National Policy writing and Policy Development for Disaster Risk Reduction in Trinidad and Tobago with ODPM staff
2. Crisis Management training with senior officers at the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure
3. Incident Command System and Mass Casualty Management training for members of the Eastern Regional Health Authority
Thus far, approximately 250 persons have been trained in various aspects of disaster risk management and we anticipate that several times this number will be trained in the coming months. Additionally, we have made it a priority to schedule Training sessions on Fridays for both ODPM Staff and external stakeholders to achieve one of our main goals – building national readiness.
Before I conclude this welcome to our Centre, I want to thank the most important people that have led to our success - our ODPM team. This outstanding team of professionals, who bring tremendous industry knowledge from a broad array of disciplines. They have worn many hats as our NEOC has evolved to where it is today. As I take my exit, I leave you with these words to mark the occasion - Today is not so much about the physical NEOC building, but more about what it represents i.e. Each and every one of us here has our own role to play in building a culture of safety and if this facility is an indication of that progress, I know we are going in the right direction. We will be taking a look at the workings of the NEOC in our demonstration area at the back, we hope this showcases some of the operational functions of this room.
WHAT IS THE NEOC?