|REMARKS BY LAWRENCE RICHARDS
on behalf of the Principal Education Officer, Department of Education
Protocol having already been established allow me to respectfully concur. Good morning everyone.
I am pleased to bring brief remarks on behalf of Mrs Lornette Queeley-Connor, Principal Education Officer and Ag Permanent Secretary in the
Ministry of Educatio and Library Services, who had initially consented to bring these remarks but subsequently learnt that she had to be in St Kitts on
other work-related business. She regrets being unable to be here this morning but promises to pay us a visit sometime before the workshop ends. On
that note I would also like to apologize for the absence of another of my colleagues, Mrs Dawnny Lanns, Early Childhood Co-ordinator, who like Mrs
Connnor, has to be in St Kitts today but in her case she has to be in St Kitts for the next several days. Mrs Lanns along with myself are the two
designated “disaster” officers within our department.
I believe that it is important that I make these two apologies for two important reasons and I suspect we may hear this re-echoed during our workshop
over the three days of this workshop. Firstly it is always important to BE PREPARED and secondly it is useful to HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN.
Being prepared is advice which ought to span every endeavour of our lives. The scouts learn to “be prepared” I joined the Boys Brigade rather than
the Scouts and we were taught to be “sure and steadfast”. That has helped me to “be prepared”. Once Mrs Connor indicated that she could not be
here this morning I had to prepare myself to represent her. On a more relevant note being prepared is no doubt a fundamental underlying principle in
Disaster Management. Maybe, unfortunately for us in the past we have focused our attention in disaster preparedness almost exclusively on
“hurricane preparedness” almost to the point that maybe we have all mastered some routines whenever we hear public announcements of tropical
storm and hurricane watches and warnings. Recent disasters in Japan and nearer home in Haiti are timely reminders that hurricanes are by no
means the only major risk that confronts us; but how ready, how prepared are we, our teachers, our schools, our children, our homes, our
administration buildings in the event that, God forbid, we are to be face even a medium strength quake. I trust at the end of this workshop we would at
least have begun to pave the way and have begun the journey that would help us to be more prepared to make our Schools (and more generally, our
workplaces) safer places for ourselves and those entrusted to our care and keeping.
Earlier I indicated that Mrs Lanns was unable to attend the workshop, I did not mention then that Mrs Carla Liburd from our Department/ Ministry at
Marion Heights is here. This brings me to my second remark. It is useful to have a backup or contingency plan or redundancy. I must hasten to add
that even with the best laid plans we may not be prepared for every possible eventuality but we must have contingencies in place to address some of
the more obvious possibilities. At the Department & Ministry of Education our officers are often in the field –whether out at schools, at meetings,
consultations, symposiums, and workshops such as this. From time to time our duties often take us off-island whether it is St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia,
Barbados or elsewhere. Hurricanes, dangerous, dreadful and unwelcome as they are, they usually occur (and I emphasize USUALLY) within a fairly
well-defined hurricane season that lasts only 6 months of the year and for most of us we pay serious attention maybe for only three of those six.
Earthquakes, fires, floods, tsunamis, volcanoes don’t always give lay persons, like most of us are, much by way of warnings. Unlike hurricanes these
don’t have clearly defined seasons or time-frames when we know we must be especially vigilant. What happens at Marion Heights at the Ministry or
Department of Education if Mrs Connor or Mrs Lanns is in St Kitts or Mr Richards is in St Lucia and there is an earthquake in Nevis. What happens at
EPPS if Ms Wilkin is on maternity leave. If there is a hurricane or storm approaching we may opt to cancel the trip but can we do that for an
earthquake or fire. Our contingencies therefore must prepare as many persons as possible, indeed everyone -if possible, with whom we work (our co-
workers, our students, our visitors to our offices and workplaces) and in our homes (our entire families) to be prepared and to have a back-up plan.
That is why Carla is here. Hurricanes usually give some advance warnings. Thanks to the science and practice of meteorology we are usually
afforded some preparation time to avert some potential danger and damage by alerting us to the timing and intensities of approaching storm
systems. Earthquakes cripple us with fear when they start to shake. Being prepared will go a long way but since we cannot tell when earthquakes will
affect us, nor can plan where we will be when fires strike, the preparedness dimension takes on a totally different challenge. Being prepared, being
safe is important. Personnel change from time to time and so it is important that for institutional sustainability our preparedness is reflected in a
I encourage all the participants especially as most of us are from the education sector, in particular our schools and education institutions, to take full
advantage of the training that this workshop will provide. It must be seen as an opportunity to empower yourself, your workplace, your home and our
island to deal with at least some aspects of emergency situations that risks like earthquakes and fires, floods etc pose. Use the opportunity wisely and
remember we must be prepared to function and to empower others as well. Be prepared to develop a Disaster Plan not just as a document to
decorate a shelf in our workplace but as a reference tool with which every member of staff becomes familiar and which every child or visitor under our
care can benefit from if there is any emergency.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge and commend our partner agencies –the Nevis Disaster Management Department –in particular Mr Dyer and Mr
Blackett and their staff as well as representatives of the USAID Office of Disaster Assistance (OFDA) who are facilitating this workshop. I place on
record our profound appreciation for the benefit that we anticipate this workshop will provide. It aims “to provide participants with the knowledge and
skills required to guide the promotion, design, development and systemization of safety plans for schools” or my own twist –“the entire education
sector of Nevis”. When we make our schools safe we make our homes safe as well. Thank you for placing your resources –human and material, at
our disposal and for our benefit. Participants you will be expected to play a lead role in rolling out the training from this course to your workplace and
in ensuring the objective is met. Individually and collectively we will have to work to make our workplaces, and more importantly, our people safer.
Best wishes to all for a successful, meaningful and productive workshop.
ADDITIONAL REMARKS TO BE POSTED INCLUDES:
Remarks & Course Overview
Ms. Audrey Mullings
United States Agency for International Development – Office of Disaster Assistance (USAID – OFDA)
Remarks & Official Opening
Ms. Angelica Elliott
Nevis Island Administration