A top regional security official says the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) is falling short in terms of its facilitation of district emergency organizations (DEOs).
Executive Director of the Regional Security System (RSS), Commander Errington Shurland, levelled the charge as he delivered the feature address at the annual general meeting of the St James Central District Emergency Organization last night.
While outlining the shortcomings of the 30 district emergency organizations (DEOs) within the island, Shurland argued that a level of Government cooperation, specifically from the DEM, was needed for the functioning and training of DEOs.
“There is a requirement for the Department of Emergency Management to pay more attention to the district emergency organizations, because if you want to call upon them in times of emergency you have to make sure that they are properly prepared to respond and I am not satisfied, based on what I have observed, that enough attention is paid to those district emergency organizations,” the RSS head added.
Shurland also called on Government to legitimize the role of community first-responders in the Emergency Management Act, while pointing out that there was no mention of the DEOs in the legislation.
“There is a requirement for the duties and the functions of the DEO to be . . . clearly written down in law,” Shurland told the audience gathered in the Queen’s College auditorium. He also said that the DEM needed to create guidelines that would facilitate the efficient running of the organizations.
“There needs to be some kind of booklet that gives guidance to the structure, the type of training and also the funding that is required to facilitate the organization and the running of the district emergency organization in order for them to be effective in Barbados,” he stressed.
While applauding the DEOs for the role they played as first responders, Shurland was critical of their efficiency and effectiveness with 19 out of the 30 organizations said to be active.
“Were something to happen that impacts Barbados we would not be able to get a situation report from certain DEOs. We would not be guaranteed that the most vulnerable in particular constituencies are being taken care of and that gap has to be addressed,” he said.
“The whole issue of funding, the issue of training is one that . . . the Department of Emergency Management as a Government agency should raise the issue at the ministerial level to demonstrate the benefits of a district emergency organization and lobby to ensure that requisite funding is in place; lobby to make sure that the legislative architecture is in place so that it gives that necessary legitimacy to those organizations,” the RSS executive director stressed.