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The 72hrs Challenge

Citizens are highly dependent on the local authorities when crisis occurs, but responders may be unable to immediately respond to civilians when a disaster occurs.

ODPM's Position :
The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management wishes to advise that citizens of Trinidad and Tobago adopt the 72 Hour Protocol when responding to disastrous events.

The first 72 hours post-disaster are critical to the resilience of the nation. Within this timeframe essential utilities such as gas, water, telephones and electricity may malfunction. The authorities, such as the Water And Sewerage Authority (WASA), Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service (TTFS) and Health Services may not be able to get to citizens immediately during or after a disaster.

Therefore it is crucial that civilians be prepared to cater to their own needs for 72 hours post-crisis. This allows the relevant authorities' sufficient time to convalesce and respond. The protocol seeks to instill a culture of self dependency within citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. It is usually advised that organizations, communities, households etc. align their Emergency Response Plan to the National Response Framework (NRF). As the NRF ( does not currently speak to the 72 hour protocol the ODPM seeks to highlight that this protocol also be taken into consideration when taking steps to prepare for crisis.

Trinidad and Tobago has not yet experienced crisis on such a massive scale as seen in numerous parts of the world. One such event that left behind catastrophic results was that of Hurricane Katrina with its impact on New Orleans. According to 'Command and Control During The First 72 Hours Of A Joint-Military Disaster Response (2007)', the following shows the tragic occurrences of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans within the first 72-hours.



August 29, 2005

  • Katrina makes landfall (6AM CDT)
  • 20,000+ in Superdome
  • 551 National Guardsmen in Superdome
  • New Orleans flooded (levee breach)
  • Communications infrastructure lost
  • New Orleans Airport closed
  • Most roads to/from New Orleans are   under water
  • Mayor predicts “significant” loss of Life
  • Looting begins

August 30, 2005

  • Mayor projects death toll at thousands
  • Communications infrastructure still lost
  • FEMA and Louisiana Governor argue about who should provide busses
  • Looting spreads throughout the city

August 31, 2005

  • New Orleans police ordered to abandon Search & Rescue
  • Evacuation plan countermanded by DOD: 24 hour delay while DOD assumes control
  • Communication infrastructure still unavailable
  • New Orleans is almost in anarchy with total loss of control by the civil authorities
  • Persistent media coverage fuels national anger over evacuation delays.

Figure 1: Relevant events from Katrina’s first 72 hours
Source : Command and Control Research & Technology Symposium (2007)

This case study shows the type of ramifications expected from such an event. This is also a bona fide threat to Trinidad and Tobago as are many others. It is important that individuals put things in place for their survival as well as that of their families. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which is the overarching body in the United States to support citizens and first responders to ensure preparation of the nation for hazards, also subscribes to the 72 hour protocol. In comparison, this protocol would have been practiced and produced positive results in the US as their experience with disasters would outrank that of Trinidad and Tobago. The ODPM in an effort to prepare our nation for crisis, proposes that out twin island state adopts this protocol to promote a better prepared and more resilient Trinidad and Tobago.

Recommendations :
Taking the aforementioned into consideration, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management would like to advise civilians adhere to the following :

  • Know the Risks

In Trinidad and Tobago, we face a number of natural hazards, which can vary from region. Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared.

During an emergency

The following steps should be taken in emergency situations:

  • Make sure you are safe before assisting others.
  • Follow your emergency plan.
  • Get your emergency kit.
  • Monitor radio, television and online for information from authorities. Follow their instructions.
  • Stay put until it is safe or you are ordered to evacuate.
  • Limit phone calls to urgent messages only. Keep the lines free for emergency responders.
  • Make a plan

Every household needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your family know what to do in an emergency. Make a plan part of your emergency kit.

The following are things to consider when making your plan:

  • Have a family emergency plan.
  • Map your evacuation routes.
  • Have a contingency plan.
  • Know your emergency contact numbers.
  • Know your emergency shelter locations.

Prepare a Disaster Kit beforehand. This should include the following:

  • Food: Maintain enough nonperishable food for each person for at least 72 hours.
  • Water: Store enough so each person has a gallon a day for 72 hours, preferably for one week. Store in airtight containers and replace it every six months. Store disinfectants such as iodine tablets or chlorine bleach, eight drops per gallon, to purify water if necessary.
  • First aid kit: Make sure it is well stocked, especially with bandages and disinfectants.
  • Fire extinguisher: Your fire extinguisher should be suitable for all types of fires. Teach all family members how to use it.
  • Flashlights with extra batteries: Keep flashlights beside your bed and in several other locations. Do not use matches or candles until you are certain there are no gas leaks.
  • Radios: Store radio with battery backup, portable radio or portable television with extra batteries: Telephones may be out of order or limited to emergency use. A radio, portable radio or portable television may be your best source of information.
  • Miscellaneous items: Extra blankets, clothing, shoes and money. Wear sturdy shoes just in case you need to walk through rubble and debris.
  • Alternative cooking sources: Store a barbecue or camping stove for outdoor camping.
    Caution: Ensure there are no gas leaks before you use any kind of fire as a cooking source and never use charcoal indoors. Gasoline-powered appliances should be filled away from ignition sources.
  • Special items: Have at least 72 hours of medications and food for infants and those with special needs. Don't forget diapers.
  • Tools: Have an adjustable or pipe wrench for turning off gas and water, and a shovel or broom for cleaning up.
  • Pets: Assemble an animal emergency supply kit and develop a pet care buddy system with friends or relatives to make sure someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be sure each of your pets has a tag with your name and phone number.  Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to plan for your pets.
  • Pay attention to directions from emergency managers, police and others and obey instructions in the event of an evacuation. 

Source :  FEMA (2007)


Dourandish, R., Zumel, N., & Manno, M. (2007). Command and Control During the First 72 Hours of a Joint. Command and Control Research & Technology Symposium. Newport, Rhode Island, USA.
Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2007, March 30). Disaster Planning Is Up To You. Retrieved 07 03, 2015, from FEMA:
Ministry of National Security. (2013). National Response Framework. Retrieved 07 03, 2015, from Office of Disaster Prepardness and Management:

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