District Emergency Organisations (DEOs) are expected to feature prominently in a system of local government for Barbados once established.
Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, made this disclosure as he addressed a ceremony to mark the reactivation of the Christ Church South DEO at the St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church Hall yesterday.
The reactivation of the DEO brings the total to 30, and sees all constituencies being covered.
“The DEO is an important organisation in the structure of Government. There is the overarching DEM [Department of Emergency Management], but to address challenges, the vulnerable people, vulnerable situations, vulnerable communities, you actually need people on the ground.
“You need the intelligence of the people who are on the ground. You know who in your community cannot get around; you know the shut-ins; you know the persons that the church will go and give communion to; you know the persons in wheelchairs…. So, it is important for you all as community practitioners to form a part of the arm of Government for the purpose of disaster management,” he said.
To do so, the Minister issued them with two main challenges: train others in communities so they could help in the response effort; and report all areas of vulnerability while seeking to mitigate potential impacts resulting from weather events.
“You are your brothers’ keepers in communities. You are also your brothers’ teachers. ….Having received training, the DEOs themselves should be organising training within their catchment area…. You don’t know who is going to be on hand when an emergency strikes.
“I challenge the DEOs not to hold the knowledge within yourself. Teach as many people as you can teach because if a disaster strikes, the 30 of you will not be enough,” the Minister pointed out.
Emphasising that the DEOs were now an arm of Government, Mr. Abrahams also implored DEO members to drive around communities with their eyes open, and report situations that may need to be improved.
“If you see a house tilting that you know will not sustain a good wind then report it because the person may not have reported it themselves. If you see a well or a drain that is blocked, report it. Don’t assume that somebody else has…. When you go around in your communities keep your eyes open for things that don’t look right, for things that you know can be done and feed them back,” he urged.
Meanwhile, Chairperson of the Christ Church South DEO, Mohammed Ali Kothdiwala, said the DEO was already active, having assisted with the removal of a fallen tree, and in discussion with the National Conservation Commission to establish a plan to clean wells in communities to alleviate the potential for flooding.
In addition, he noted there were also plans to meet with hotels along the coast, as well as shops and supermarkets in the constituency to formulate a disaster response plan for the entire catchment area.
Consultant with the DEM, Selwyn Brooks, urged the DEO members not be partisan, but to remain community centred and committed to building resilience.
He noted that over recent months, DEO members received training in a number of areas, including chain saw use, radio operations, First Aid, evacuation procedures, the safe use of fire extinguishers and hazard analysis.