JIS News

Members of the St. Catherine Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) yesterday (January 16), participated in a simulation exercise to assess the centre’s strengths and weaknesses.
The exercise, organized by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), in collaboration with the St. Catherine Parish Council, was part of activities in observance of Earthquake Awareness Week. It was held at the St. Catherine Parish Council and attended by councillors, shelter managers, zonal committee members and representatives from government agencies in the parish.
The event began with the delivery of a mock message to the Chairman of the Centre, stating that a category five hurricane was expected to hit the island by 6:30 p.m. During the exercise, mock messages citing different incidents that were likely to happen in the event of a hurricane, were sent to the centre. Consequently, agencies represented in various groups, operations, welfare and administration, came up with suitable action plans.
Co-ordinator for the Eastern Region of ODPEM, Omar Afflick told JIS News that the event was an opportunity for existing and new members of the EOC to get to know each other and to learn about the standard operational procedure of the Centre.
“You may have new personnel representing an agency, so they need to be integrated into the system and to see how the system works. It also gives the parish a chance to see if their mechanisms are realistic, if they can work and how they would respond to an incident,” he said.
Mr. Afflick noted that one major gap during the exercise was the reluctance of agency representatives to work with each other in deciding on actions to be taken, but preferred independent operations.
“For a disaster where there are ripple effects from an incident, you need the integration of all agencies and that was a bit lacking,” he said, adding that the event brought out the need for the training of EOC members.
“We will concentrate on the gaps that we have identified here. Within that training, we will have a lot more work, so that agencies can integrate in order to carry out an action for an incident,” he said.
According to the Co-ordinator, similar training sessions would be held for other parish EOCs before the hurricane season. “It’s a tight schedule but that is our objective,” he added.
He praised members of Government agencies and political representatives for attending the event and suggesting ideas for improving the parish disaster plan, with regards to traffic management and evacuations.
“Having the Chairman of the Parish Disaster Committee and other political representatives in the session was a great achievement. Oftentimes the political representative is not seen within the EOC during the disaster time and when they have a chance to sit now and participate in this, they get a general feel of how things are, and what their responsibilities are, as it pertains to disaster response,” he said.

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