Ed­i­to­rial Dis­as­ter man­age­ment and EMTs

Stabroek News - - STABROEK NEWS -

Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment can be de­fined as “the or­ga­ni­za­tion and man­age­ment of re­sources and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for deal­ing with all hu­man­i­tar­ian as­pects of emer­gen­cies, in par­tic­u­lar pre­pared­ness, re­sponse and re­cov­ery in or­der to lessen the im­pact of dis­as­ters.” Guyana has been ex­tremely for­tu­nate, through a favourable mix of geo­graphic cir­cum­stances, to not have had to deal with a re­ally se­ri­ous nat­u­ral dis­as­ter to date. In­deed the “Great Flood” of 2005 was ex­ac­er­bated mainly by the fact that our pre­pared­ness, re­sponse and re­cov­ery were not up to the re­quired stan­dard to min­i­mize the im­pact of the flood­ing.

Guyana has there­fore been un­der very lit­tle pres­sure over the years to de­velop and main­tain a modern dis­as­ter risk man­age­ment sys­tem with the ca­pa­bil­ity to ac­cu­rately pre­dict, ef­fec­tively pre­pare, and ef­fi­ciently re­spond to var­i­ous kinds of dis­as­ters as and when they oc­cur. Nei­ther is our dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness and re­sponse sys­tem some­thing that we can ex­port to other Caribbean ter­ri­to­ries when­ever they ex­pe­ri­ence dis­as­ters. Our in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance in such cases is usu­ally lim­ited to the loan of mil­i­tary per­son­nel to af­fected coun­tries.

We have be­moaned the fact in these pages be­fore that our coun­try does not pos­sess emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices (EMS) fully equipped with am­bu­lances and trained on-board emer­gency med­i­cal tech­ni­cians (called EMTs or paramedics in the USA). De­spite the high pre­pon­der­ance of traf­fic ac­ci­dents on our road­ways, many of them re­sult­ing in fa­tal­i­ties and in­juries, there are no vis­i­ble quick-re­sponse med­i­cal teams that are despatched to ac­ci­dent scenes, and in­deed, the man in the street is en­tirely un­aware of the num­ber to call in such even­tu­al­i­ties. The Ge­orge­town Pub­lic Hospi­tal Cor­po­ra­tion, which should be the lead in­sti­tu­tion im­ple­ment­ing the mo­bil­i­sa­tion of EMS in Guyana, does not have a vis­i­ble pos­ture ac­tively pro­mot­ing EMS and the de­ploy­ment of EMTs in Ge­orge­town or any other part of the coun­try.

All in all, the state of af­fairs as cur­rently ex­ists, shows that the au­thor­i­ties do not seem to place much im­por­tance in real, vis­i­ble, func­tion­ing and ef­fec­tive dis­as­ter man­age­ment ser­vices and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices. The phi­los­o­phy that speaks to the sanc­tity of hu­man life, and the im­por­tance of the preser­va­tion of hu­man life as a pri­or­ity over every other act, does not ap­pear to be en­dorsed by those who

should have the re­spon­si­bil­ity for ac­tu­al­is­ing a cred­i­ble dis­as­ter man­age­ment sys­tem and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices, which two ser­vices are a nec­es­sary com­ple­ment to each other. The task of keep­ing in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens safe from harm and in­jury must fall to a very com­mit­ted group of trained pro­fes­sion­als who must be equipped with the knowl­edge of the philo­soph­i­cal un­der­pin­nings of their job, in ad­di­tion to hav­ing the nec­es­sary sys­tems, equip­ment, ve­hi­cles and so on to func­tion ef­fec­tively.

As the Oil and Gas econ­omy draws in­ex­orably closer to its com­mer­cial “start-up” date, Guyana was given a small test of its ca­pa­bil­ity to deal with in­ci­dents akin to what can oc­cur in the Oil & Gas en­vi­ron­ment: a water well that was be­ing dug by a home owner in Di­a­mond re­sulted in a vi­o­lent ex­plo­sion of nat­u­ral gas, spew­ing mud and slush high into the air and col­laps­ing a sec­tion of the con­crete fence sur­round­ing the prop­erty. This in­ci­dent oc­curred in June of this year and mul­ti­ple gov­ern­ment agen­cies have col­lab­o­rated in di­ag­nos­ing the prob­lem and plug­ging the well. Yet, just a few days ago, the well erupted once more and while work­ers from the Guyana Ge­ol­ogy and Mines Com­mis­sion (GGMC) have been seen work­ing on the well, the GGMC has not been forth­com­ing on the sta­tus of the nat­u­ral gas leak and whether it con­sti­tutes an on-go­ing risk to the sur­round­ing build­ings, or in­deed whether neigh­bours should take par­tic­u­lar pre­cau­tions in go­ing about their day-to­day busi­ness.

It is quite clear that the work­ers at the var­i­ous agen­cies that col­lab­o­rated on the nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­sion site last June may have never ex­pe­ri­enced such an event be­fore. This means that while their the­o­ret­i­cal pre­pared­ness for deal­ing with the prob­lem might be at an ac­cept­able level, they might be badly lack­ing in prac­ti­cal ex­per­tise and even the pos­ses­sion of the right tools and equip­ment for cor­rect­ing the prob­lem. Rather than adopt­ing a trial and er­ror ap­proach to fix­ing this prob­lem, it might be a bet­ter

so­lu­tion to bring in in­ter­na­tional ex­perts and use the op­por­tu­nity to train and en­hance lo­cal ex­per­tise in the mat­ter. While this prob­lem re­mains un­re­solved, there ex­ists an un­known level of risk to life, limb and prop­erty to the per­sons liv­ing in the im­me­di­ate area, since the gov­ern­ment agen­cies have not given any cur­rent up­dates on the sit­u­a­tion.

All this takes us back to the philo­soph­i­cal con­struct on which dis­as­ter man­age­ment agen­cies and emer­gency re­sponse ser­vices are set up in Guyana. In ad­vanced coun­tries, emer­gency re­sponse per­son­nel (such as fire­men, for ex­am­ple) are hailed as he­roes be­cause they are trained, and are pre­pared to put their lives and limbs on the line to save the lives of oth­ers. Here in Guyana we have no such per­cep­tion of our emer­gency ser­vices per­son­nel, and this must be be­cause the con­cepts of “emer­gency ser­vices re­sponse” and “dis­as­ter man­age­ment” are not wo­ven into the na­tional psy­che.

Con­se­quently, we are go­ing to con­tinue to hear of in­di­vid­u­als be­ing “trained” as EMTs but will never see or hear of them sav­ing a life, be­cause the ac­tu­al­iza­tion of this type of ser­vice re­quires a philo­soph­i­cal con­struct that seems miss­ing in our de­ci­sion mak­ers. Con­se­quently too, our dis­as­ter man­age­ment sys­tems will con­tinue to lack spe­cialised skills, equip­ment and sys­tems in­clud­ing the use of modern tech­nol­ogy.

Maybe some­time dur­ing the cur­rent bud­get dis­cus­sions, our par­lia­men­tar­i­ans will have a col­lec­tive epiphany on the over­rid­ing im­por­tance of keep­ing the pop­u­la­tion safe from in­jury and harm.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Guyana

© PressReader. All rights reserved.