Let me start off by saying that after a few months of being in Trinidad and Tobago.
I still can’t believe how truly fortunate I am. Wednesday I visited engineers from the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force and Delaware Army National Guard working shoulder to shoulder renovating a primary school in Blanchisseausse…and today I find myself here with you celebrating yet another example of the great partnership between our two countries.
Minister Dillon…thank you for sharing this special occasion today with me. I understand that this day has been in the works for a few years and that various challenges had to be overcome to finally begin construction…but I know firsthand that sometimes the best things take time….. like my appointment to this fine country!
I know many of you are pretty sure…as they say…that “God is a Trini” and sometimes when I look at this beautiful country I can’t help but agree. I am also reminded that we must never take anything this blessed for granted and that being prepared to respond quickly and efficiently is a responsibility that Dr. Ramroop and his personnel of ODPM take very seriously. I was surprised to discover that in the last eight months Trinidad and Tobago has experienced seven earthquakes or tremors ranging from 4.0 to 5.7 on the Richter scale, both on land and at sea. The most recent one occurring on August 2nd ranging 4.0 on the Richter scale at a depth of 77 kilometers.
And just last week severe weather caused flooding which lead to severe property damage. We are also seeing more storms, floods and landslides worldwide…but especially in places like India, Nepal, Vietnam and Bangladesh…which have unfortunately resulted in the loss of many lives.
In my own country we had large scale fires in California resulting in evacuations and millions of dollars in property damage. These occurrences emphasize the need for governments to continually maintain a high state of readiness…and able to respond not only to natural disasters as I mentioned above…but also manmade disasters. ‘
The construction of this Emergency Operations Center is just one example of numerous initiatives by United States Southern Command as they work with US Embassies like ours to assist our regional partners in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief response. Southern Commands’ Commander…Admiral Kurt Tidd shares my belief that building capacity in areas that directly impact a country’s ability to save lives is a priority. The commitment we have to Trinidad and Tobago can be seen in the mutually beneficial programs we have conducted that exposed US and TT personnel to seminars, conferences and training in Disaster Preparedness and Management. This included a Disaster Relief scenario in the recent Tradewinds Exercise and the seminar on Disaster Waste Management in which many of your ODPM personnel participated. And I am told that Mr. Neville Wint, where are you Mr. Witt, ok there you are…you still have some homework you owe Dr. Ramroop towards finalizing a national plan on how you will treat waste resulting from a disaster.
Next month SOUTHCOM will again partner with the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force to co-host a Caribbean Interagency Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Workshop. This workshop will focus on defense support to civil authorities and how to enhance how the U.S. and our partners plan, integrate, synchronize and coordinate diverse tasks in an interagency environment so that a whole of government approach is responsive, efficient, and effective.
This facility also reflects the commitment the United States has to the region and through Southern Command’s Humanitarian Assistance Program we have constructed twenty-three EOC’s with the most recent being in the Dominican Republic.
So ladies and gentlemen what I hope you take away from today’s ceremony is not the construction of a building but rather what it symbolizes; the commitment of both our nations to work together for the benefit of our citizens.
Minister Dillon, Dr. Ramroop thank you again for inviting me and I would like to congratulate all of you who had a part in making this EOC a reality.
I also want to challenge you to be the example for the rest of the Caribbean, and remember, today is always the best day to prepare for tomorrow.