Garry Griffith outlines aspect of Committee’s Report on electricity blackout occurred in Trinidad

He stated that the National Transformation Alliance (NTA) welcomes the Committee's Report on the electricity blackout which occurred in Trinidad on Wednesday, 16 February 2022.

Garry Griffith outlines aspect of Committee's Report on electricity blackout occurred in Trinidad
Garry Griffith outlines aspect of Committee's Report on electricity blackout occurred in Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago: Former Commissioner of Police Garry Griffith outlined some aspects of the report of the Committee on the electricity situation of Trinidad and Tobago. 

He stated that the National Transformation Alliance (NTA) welcomes the Committee’s Report on the electricity blackout which occurred in Trinidad on Wednesday, 16 February 2022. In the NTA’s view, the Committee’s report was forthright and objective in identifying the series of failings in Incident Management of the 12-hour island-wide electricity failure, which caused widespread fear, anxiety and concern amongst the population.

Among the critical points that the NTA noted in the report were the following:

* Resources from the Defence Force were not deployed.

* An absence of an Emergency Response Plan for power systems’ failure.

* The absence of official communication lead to a heightened level of anxiety and uncertainty in the population.

These critical points would have been covered if the National Operations Centre (NOC), which was activated during the tenure of Former Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith, was not dismantled.

The NOC was established to manage incidents with the potential to affect large sections of our population, such as what occurred at the February Blackout and more recently the traffic gridlock arising from the west Trinidad WASA pipeline failure.

Examples of successful use of the NOC occurred during the Greenvale Floods, the August 2018 earthquake, and successive Carnival seasons; just to name a few.

By dismantling the NOC, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have lost the service of, for example, the timely messaging, in the immediate aftermath of the 2018 Earthquake, when 20,000 text messages were posted, every few minutes, via the two telecommunications providers. There is no longer an incident command leader to guide security agencies, and we are also being denied an incident alert scale to mobilize and respond in a timely manner to traffic, safety concerns, and general public security issues.

Had the NOC been operational during the Blackout, the alert state would have been lifted, which would have triggered standard operational procedures, such as off-duty police officers and other personnel from the protective services, being mandated to report for duty, which would have ensured all hands on deck, in preparation for any untoward eventualities. 

This immediate call up, which would have occurred in the daytime, would have been done to ensure stability in the country. The extra contingent of officers could have then be utilized, for example, to transport the sick, infirm, elderly and the young, facing the horror of public transport, to their destinations safely and securely.

In addition, this lack of officer presence, because only officers rostered for that day were on duty, meant that citizens were left vulnerable to attacks from opportunistic criminals, who in contrast to the Minister of National Security’s comments, took advantage of the situation, which saw overworked police officers, and a TTPS response capability that was stretched to its limit. Defence Force personnel were needed, but this lack of proper leadership left them immobilized, which explains why they were forced to tell the Blackout Committee that they were on standby, which begs the question – What good is an asset if it is not used?

Furthermore, the NTA recognizes the important role of the ODPM, which is the agency that is fundamentally responsible for “the preparation of systems and resources” to mitigate and manage risk, should a disaster occur, but as the name clearly states, this agency is not a first responder, and therefore should not be coordinating disaster response. This is the job of the NOC.

Beyond the management failings, however, it is the NTA’S sincerest hope that the findings of this report will serve to be the infrastructure on which improvements in the delivery of service are built in preparation for the next natural disaster or major incident. But suppose lessons are not learnt and improvements not made. In that case, the NTA wants to assure the public that NTA leadership will ensure that safety and security operations, as well as public information, are all delivered in accordance with the established procedures for Risk Management, Incident Management, and Disaster Management.

We will also guarantee that the Defence Force, the T&T Police Service, the ODPM, the Public Utilities and Health Ministries, Traffic Management, and the Media, which are all critical facets of Incident Management; will be effectively coordinated by the National Operations Centre, marshaled by an Incident Commander, to alleviate citizen fear, crime and uncertainty.

The NTA recognizes that the February Blackout started with a fallen tree – summarized as an Act of God. However, the NTA reminds the national community that “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves!”