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By Richmond Felix

August 21, 1998 - While the thought of an unexpected disaster may lie far in the back of of some persons minds, a lot is being done behind the scenes to ensure that St. Lucia is prepared for the worst. One initiative by the Office of Disaster Preparedness aims to coordinate community efforts, which form part of the whole National Disaster Preparedness Plan.

Chairpersons and Secretaries of the various Disaster Preparedness Committees from around the island, met Thursday with officials from the Office of Disaster Preparedness, to review their objectives, present models and synchronize efforts in the event of any national emergency.

"I think we need to do a lot of work in educating them (the public) and getting them to understand that disaster preparedness ought to be a priority, its a very important function in any community," said one participant.

The came to share experiences, get acquainted with counterparts and try to achieve unionism towards their common goal. "Its to make sure that not only at a local level but at the national level were all in sync," said Dawn French, Deputy Disaster Preparedness Coordinator. "You might think its already August, the height of the hurricane season, but as far as my office is concerned disasters may come 12 months in the year. So any time we get to meet its the right time."

Having met the Chairpersons and Secretaries will now go back to their respective committees to disseminate the information, passing down the experience and provide feedback on specific concerns, which have been brought forward. Traditional issues like transportation and communication were brought forth to the table, however participants also got to share some very unique perspectives.

Imogene Mitchel, Chairperson - Choiseul Disaster Preparedness Committee "With me I am more bent on the social welfare aspects, so I had to deal with planning for the elderly this year. Some other persons within the council planed the program for disaster preparedness."

Willie-Anna St. Rose, Clerk - Choiseul Disaster Preparedness Committee "We have plans in place for fire, hurricane, heavy seas, since we are on the coastal lines and things of that nature."

Ivan Gaspard, Chairperson -Dennery Disaster Preparedness Committee "My committee is not looking at hurricanes alone, we are looking at other disasters. In fact we have made contributions, medical contributions to persons in the community and we are about to go into a fund raising drive to assist a young man. We also have made numerous contributions to fire victims."

The Office of Disaster Preparedness has been holding similar sessions in the past. Already it has met with most of the committees on an individual basis this year. Such meetings are seen as critical because of the voluntary nature of Disaster Preparedness Committees. Positions of Chairpersons change and even the members may come and go from year to year and it is vital make sure the contact information is up-to-date.


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