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Light Lessons from The Darkness

If you are from Trinidad and Tobago and are reading this blog, congratulations! You would have survived the worst power outage in the country’s history, that caused this nation of approximately 1.4 million to literally “be in the dark” for between 10-12 consecutive hours. Nevertheless, as frustrating as the events of yesterday’s power outage were, they did more than inconvenience an estimated 1,000,000 citizens and residents.

Apart from arguably catching most of us flat-footed, in terms of our level of disaster preparedness, it exposed the incredible, and sometimes regrettable inter-relation between our basic utilities, and showed how still very reliant we are on non-natural sources of energy, despite touting our desire in national policies and other developmental frameworks to, ‘go green’ by relying for example, on the natural powers of the wind and sun.

The most obvious casualty was the undeniable inconvenience caused to a diverse plethora of businesses and residences, ranging from hospitals, morgues and clinics, to schools, restaurants, haberdasheries and cold storage facilities, plus, essential facilities including supermarkets, postal services, utility companies, bakeries and financial institutions. Traffic lights were also affected, and, triggered a dual challenge for motorists trying to navigate through gridlock traffic…while in the dark. Ditto for meetings and other events that were scheduled to be delivered online.

Therefore, the lost productivity hours and profit margins from this massive power outage, must be a cause for concern, especially against the background of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. If any lesson was learnt, it is that we are still very much in the dark (pardon the pun), by way of our readiness for such scenarios.

Another lesson, is that we appear not to have strategic contingency plans for maintaining a relatively seamless national operation, where existing systems simultaneously fail, and human subversion has been almost automatically ruled out. God must truly be a Trini, as the popular local belief suggests, particularly as this chaotic development did not occur during heavy rains, or, in the rainy season. Therefore, the lesson to be gleaned must be that Trinidad and Tobago must either upgrade its contingency plans to reflect the demands of living in the 21st century, or, must diversify its scope of alternative resources to prevent near-full reliance on the current system in times of disaster.

A third lesson that emerged is that, our service providers are far too dependent on each other for comfort. As the power went, so did the water in several taps, as well as the downing of telephone lines, not to mention our digital infrastructure. Yet, rather than see this unfortunate occurrence as an opportunity to further tout the virtues of harnessing renewable energy sources, in addition to conducting a thorough investigation to prevent a similar development in the future, we seem more prepared than ever to remain dependent on electricity as a major developmental tool.

Yesterday, we were all in the dark. Today, who among us will finally see the light?

Keywords: LinkedIn Local Caribbean, electricity, power outage, light, disaster

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