Regional disaster response plan being drafted

A workshop opened yesterday to compile a regional disaster and preparedness plan for the 10 administrative regions.

The one-week workshop, which is being held under the theme ‘Improving Disaster Preparedness and Response in Guyana,’ is organised by the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) in collaboration with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Local Government Ministry. It is aimed at developing a disaster preparedness plan for response to emergencies by the regional administrations across Guyana as well as the completion of emergency simulated exercises aimed at preparing the regions for such events.

Over the next five days, participants at the workshop will be exposed to an assessment of the CDC regional infrastructure, equipment and staffing and a preliminary review of regional plans and procedures. There will also be consultations with key personnel of relevant regions and emergency committees.

Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon, who holds the post of National Disaster Coordinator (NDC), termed the exercise a “nut and bolt” event, which is aimed at the regions providing support to the CDC in disaster preparedness. He said once the leadership within the regions is sensitised on perspectives of disaster management, “I think what follows next is logical.”

Luncheon said that at the regional level, in the event of disasters, it is “important” that there is coordination and collaboration between the regional administrations and the CDC—the designated disaster response agency.

He said recently, the CDC faced the question of whether there was “the most up-to-date information” about areas that would give an analysis of flooding and he noted that it was important that such information is readily available for future reference. He said the information should include the nature of the last interventions made to flood-prone areas and it was critical that the information is not only available to those in charge of disaster preparedness but also persons who are affected by flooding at the community level.

He added that what should be ideal is that when flooding takes place in a community, all of the conceivable data could be accessed and available, against the backdrop of the outcome of the last intervention.

At the regional level, Luncheon said, it was important that information disseminated at the workshop be put into use.

Director General of the CDC Lieutenant Colonel (rtd) Chabilall Ramsarup noted that the regional administrations had been the “missing link” between the collaborative efforts made by the CDC and its partners in response efforts to disasters. He said CDEMA has become an ally in assisting the CDC in its efforts and expressed appreciation to the regional body for providing support in the form of training and imparting knowledge to local partners.

Ramsarup noted that the world today has seen a high incidence of natural disasters and he emphasised the severity of such natural calamites. Locally, he said, the prevalence of flooding has seen the country’s economy being placed on the back foot, with the agriculture sector bearing the brunt of the damage. He recounted that there was a drought which had seen the sector facing dire times, while more recently flood waters have added insult to injury in regions across the coastland. He said that the floods in areas in the Mahaica and Mahaicony creeks have had an impact on the morale of farmers there.

Over the years, Ramsarup said that the CDC has worked to prepare a number of national documents, which will guide preparations for disasters. Among them are the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the national emergency operating centre, completion of a draft national disaster risk management policy, and national early warning systems which are updated continually with input from stakeholders.

CDEMA official Brigadier General (rtd) Earl Arthurs of Belize stated that Guyana has done a lot of work in the field of disaster preparedness and he requested a round of applause for this achievement.

He said the Caribbean is one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world, with disasters which have had dreadful effects on economies and the livelihood of citizens. Arthurs noted that this week’s workshop was specifically designed for the ten administrative regions, while adding that it provides planning arrangements within the regions and will also strengthen those already in place. He said the workshop would also provide an understanding of the regions as well as that of the CDC, in terms of disaster preparedness.

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