Georgetown, Guyana – (April 14, 2018)Even as the Regional Chairman of Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region Two), Mr. Devanand Ramdatt, informed the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) of the destruction of three homes in Lima due to heavy winds, the Commission, yesterday, concluded an Initial Damage Assessment training for 45 persons from that region, as well as, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara (Region Three), Demerara-Mahaica (Region Four), Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five), East-Berbice Corentyne (Region Six) and the CDC’s Volunteer Corps. Those trained from Region Two will have their knowledge tested immediately as they have returned to their Region to participate in the damage assessment exercise there.
During the simple closing ceremony held at the CDC’s Headquarters, Acting Director General, Colonel Lieutenant Kester Craig said that the training, which is a collaborative effort with the United States Agency for International Development’s, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), could not come at a more opportune time particularly for the participants from the Pomeroon.
Colonel Craig noted that regional officials and volunteers, who have been trained, will now form the Regional Rapid Assessment Teams, and will be required to conduct assessments immediately after a hazard impact to inform the process of determining the appropriate response. In keeping with the Regional Disaster Risk Management Mechanism, the CDC should only take the lead in the response operations, if the situation overwhelms the Region’s capacity. As Guyana and the Caribbean grapples with the impact of climate change, the Director General said that the country must work to enhance its collective capacity to be able to provide an effective response system to emergencies and disasters at all levels.
“As you all know, Guyana is susceptible to both natural and manmade hazards that can impact the society, our vulnerable Regions, their communities and the residents. Flooding, as a result of heavy rainfall, or breaches in the sea defence or from other sources, droughts, fires, spillage of petroleum caused by an overturned transport vehicle on a roadway, and now, the probability of an offshore oil spill, all have the potential to disrupt our lives and our communities. As such, Disaster Risk Management becomes everybody’s business,” he noted.
The Director General said that the Government, through the CDC, has embarked on the path to ensuring that across Guyana’s ten Regions, citizens as well as private sector and public sector stakeholders, gain the relevant knowledge and skills necessary to positively impact decision-making, operational readiness, effectiveness and efficiency, in the event that our people are impacted by hazards and/or disasters. In this regard, the Regional Disaster Risk Management System is being implemented in all the Regions and Community-Based Disaster Risk Management at the community level in an effort to decentralise Disaster Risk Management and enhance disaster response at all levels.
“Damage Assessment is a critical component of Disaster Risk Management. It provides critical information that aids in guiding decision-making relative to operational responses. It also defines, for response personnel, various parameters for logistics requirements, while providing the road map to aid in sourcing the resources needed to bring relief to the affected persons and communities. The persons who have been part of this course now have the knowledge to understand and conduct damage assessments,” he said.
The next phase is to complete the training and set up Rapid Assessment Teams in the remaining five Regions. The best among the 45 will be selected to be trained as Instructors and aid in conducting similar training as it becomes necessary. Mr. Clive Lore, Disaster Management Specialist from USAID/OFDA, in providing a brief history of the training, said that it was recognised during the 1980s that there was a need for a structured system of reporting information to responding entities during disasters. This tool, he said, has been used throughout the region.
“USAID is happy to provide the necessary assistance in enhancing the capacity of both the regional mechanism and the national system to respond to the challenges you may face from one hazard to another. The course provided information on timeframes, what information is needed to be collected at various times and how to initially use the information, provided definitions of levels of damage… The course focused primarily on wind and earthquake damage. Coming into this course, however, we took a decision that we needed to develop definitions for flood impacts so Guyana became somewhat of a guinea pig to test this and we will modify it as the need arises in the coming months,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Althea Daniels-Stewart, a Civil Defence Volunteer from Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, in an invited comment said that she believes she is now more equipped to conduct accurate damage assessments. “I am also a major in the Guyana People’s Militia, GDF [Guyana Defence Force] Reserve and so this training fits in with our mandate to be first responders in disaster situations. I find the training has been helpful because now that I have this training, I can do a more effective job of reporting damage in my community should there be an incident where my services are required in this arena… now we have information that fits in with the internationally acknowledged action and terminology and so on. So when we report here we would be using the same jargons as anywhere else in the world,” she said.
Mr. Lalchan Salik, an Education Officer from East Berbice-Corentyne, said that he intends to return to his community and share the knowledge he has gained. “It is indeed a wonderful course where we would have acquired knowledge and basic techniques as to how we could be a part of the community or communities that are affected with these hazards more so the natural disasters. The knowledge that I would have acquired during this period, I’m going to ensure that I share it with my colleagues and put same into practice for effectiveness and efficient document preparation and submission,” he said.
Ms. Karen Roopchand, Deputy Chief Planning Officer of the Ministry of Communities, in her remarks, said that each tier of government has a role to play in fostering development and nation-building to achieve the good life for every citizen of Guyana. She added that Regional and local government organs must not be seen as appendages to central government, but are in fact bodies, which have duties and responsibilities that are unique to them; responsibilities, which cannot be efficiently and effectively carried out by any central government. Ms. Roopchand urged the successful participants to use the skills and knowledge gained to the fullest to plan, prepare and execute in their respective areas.