Diego Martin Regional Corporation Activates First Flood Early Warning System
(By Jerry David, Disaster Management Coordinator of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation)
The Disaster Management Unit of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation is urging residents in flood prone areas to register with their Flood Early Warning System (F.E.W.S). The system, designed specifically for the D.M.R.C by Aldwayne Wayne of Powerline Communication, is the first in Trinidad. It has been installed and tested in six low lying areas in Petit Valley, Diego Martin, Goodwood Gardens and Maraval and is designed to alert residents of rising flood waters in their area by sending text alerts to their cell phones.
The DMRC Flood Alert Pole
Flood alert poles are armed with a sensor, siren and warning light. Rising flood water levels activate the sensor, simultaneously setting off the siren, the warning light and text alerts to persons who have signed on to the system. The standard text messages indicate the level of flooding for that particular area. Residents can register their cell phone numbers at one, two or all of the flood alert poles as they require. The phone database is anonymous, held confidentially and is used only to send messages regarding flooding. It is not sold or distributed outside of the Disaster Management Unit (DMU) so residents need not fear spam messages. Older residents or persons without cell phones should ask a neighbour, friend or family member to sign up for the alert and notify them when it is activated. The only drawback is that only 200 persons have signed up for the text alerts so far.
Thunderstorms accompanied by heavy downpours are the precursors to floods such as those experienced in 1962, 2012 and 2013. Rapid hillside development, both planned and unplanned, has contributed in different ways to the flood and landslip problems, which are not expected to improve. Residents need to know their exposures and have a plan to address them. The Disaster Management Unit is helping residents to prepare by distributing free sandbags and sand to persons living in flood zones. However residents must do their part by collecting, filling and folding the sandbags correctly and storing them under polypropylene cover until needed. As the Diego Martin/Maraval valleys are prone to flash floods, residents will not have time to fill sandbags and build a proper sandbag wall once the flood alert goes out.
In addition to the Flood Early Warning System, the Diego Martin Regional Corporation has launched a cell phone app that allows person to take a photo of an emerging hazard such as flash flood, health or drain hazard and send it directly to the Corporation for their urgent action.
The Disaster Management Unit has trained over 250 people to recognize, respond and recover from various hazards since 2011 and continues to train new groups two to three times a year. However, the DMU urges all vulnerable residents to follow the guidelines of the ODPM in preparing for this year’s flood season. In a real disaster, residents will have to determine when and where to evacuate and to be able to withstand an extended evacuation period.
But the first step is to sign up for flood alerts. Text the appropriate code for your area to 489 0206 to sign on:
Petit Valley: Crystal Stream text CSPTV,
Leo Bass/Chuma Monka text LBCHU
Diego Martin: Jean Avenue, text JEADM
Goodwood Gardens, text GWGAR
Maraval: Lower La Seiva text LOLAS