After Wednesday’s earthquake: civil defence



On Wednesday an earthquake of 4.4 magnitude on the Richter scale was reported in the Maltese islands. As far as we are aware no damage was caused, yet it would be appropriate to consider a number of relevant issues.

Are we prepared for the consequences of a much stronger earthquake which would cause considerable damage including the potential death of a substantial number of persons?

Around two years ago, the Civil Protection Department (CPD) in conjunction with the Sicilian counterparts carried out an earthquake simulation exercise in Gozo which, undoubtedly, provided CPD personnel with valuable experience. It is not known if the department has been involved in any subsequent exercises, either locally or abroad, nor is it known if any specific operational changes were implemented by the CPD as a result of the lessons learned in the 2015 exercise.

It is, however, pertinent to point out that it is not only the CPD, the Police, the AFM and the Health Authorities that need adequate and continuous training to cope with the aftermath of a strong earthquake in the Maltese Islands. In addition to the operators of the different sectors of the infrastructure (energy, water, transport) the civilian population should also receive training for this unlikely eventuality.

Simulation exercises involving the civilian population are necessary as they would develop at local level an ability to manage a disaster. We need to start from scratch in building up a civil defence corps worthy of the name, coordinated and trained by the CPD but based in each locality in Malta and Gozo.

It is a responsibility which, together with adequate resources, should be assigned to local councils under the watchful eye of the CPD.

This would be the appropriate way to build up an adequate general level of preparedness for disaster management. The involvement of the local councils would also ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable members of our communities are addressed. Specific protocols need to be developed and tested in conjunction with local councils regarding the assistance required by children and those who are bedridden or disabled. Catering for all disabilities is an indispensible prerequisite and this requires trained personnel to which the CPD currently has little if any access. It is an easily identifiable deficiency that needs to be addressed forthwith.

Those in charge of disaster management in time of need require the ability to communicate with people having impaired hearing. Is anyone at the CPD, the Police, the AFM or the Health Authorities able to communicate in sign language? Addressing this communication deficiency on the part of the authorities is required not just to ensure that Malta is adequately prepared for disaster management, it is also an everyday deficiency that every authority in Malta that offers a direct service to the population at large needs to address. With around 500 known Maltese with impaired hearing and a number of others who could have remained below the radar, this is an issue that is manageable primarily at local level.

The CPD is one of the youngest departments and to date it has given sterling service in fire-fighting, managing pollution and providing assistance required as a result of flooding after heavy storms. We look forward to the next step in its development: ensuring that training in disaster management is an integral part of the services of local authorities.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 27 August 2017

Id-dilemma ta’ Varist Bartolo ………… dwar Philip Rizzo

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Hi ħasra li Philip Rizzo ma ħasibx ftit iktar qabel ma kiteb il-kummenti sessisti tiegħu fuq facebook.

Dwar jekk il-manager fl-ETC għamlitx sewwa li ippubblikat ritratt tagħha bil-malja, dak argument ieħor, u hu rifless fuqha iktar minn ħaġa oħra.

Il-kummenti ta’ Philip Rizzo m’humiex aċċettabbli minn Chief Executive Officer tal-ETC. L-anqas m’huma aċċettabbli jekk jiġu minn ħaddieħor, peró Rizzo għandu bżonn jifhem li jeħtieġ li jmexxi bl-eżempju. Għax kif jista’ issa jippretendi imġieba korretta bejn l-impjegati fuq il-post tax-xogħol jekk hu indika mod differenti ta’ imġieba?

Imma l-problema hi ikbar minn hekk. Għax bil-kummenti tiegħu Rizzo qed jipperikola x-xogħol utli li hu stess għamel favur il-persuni b’diżabilità, ħidma li għadu għaddej biha. Għax hi ħidma li jagħmel b’konvinzjoni mhux b’konvenjenza.

Hawn hi d-dilemma ta’ Varist Bartolo. Ikeċċieh jew ma jkeċċiehx?

Fil-miżien tal-konsiderazzjonijiet tiegħu Varist ipprefera l-benefiċċju għall-persuni b’diżabiltà milli l-korrettezza politika. M’hiex għażla faċli u mhux kulħadd kapaċi jagħmilha.

Nittama biss li l-fatt li ngħata ċans ieħor jinftiehem li dan ma sarx għal wiċċu, iżda fl-interess tal-persuni b’diżabiltà. Għax hekk biss tagħmel sens id-deċiżjoni ta’ Varist.

You know where we stand

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You know where we stand. This statement distinguishes Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green party in Malta, from the other political parties. Greens in Malta are, and have always been, clear as to the political agenda which they champion. In contrast, there are a number of issues on which both the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party are silent or evasive.

One important issue will be missing from AD’s 2013 electoral manifesto for the first time since the 1992 general election. I am referring to proposals for the introduction of divorce legislation. The PN and the PL always shied away from taking a stand on divorce. They were, however, faced with the inevitable when PN maverick MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, (later joined by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo) took a leaf out of AD’s 2008 electoral manifesto and presented a Private Member’s Bill on divorce. The Bill was approved after the need for divorce legislation was endorsed by popular support expressed in a referendum notwithstanding the resistance of a number of fundamentalist MPs.

Much has been written about the matter but it is necessary at this point in time to underline that on this basic issue both the PN and the PL failed to be clear with the electorate. They tried to avoid the issue to pander to fundamentalist sentiment.

AD has always been very clear on the issues it supports or opposes. It will remain so.

Today, AD will present to the public its team of candidates, which, once more, will be contesting all 13 electoral districts in the March 2013 general election. Eventual Green members of Parliament will ensure a responsible approach to the country’s challenges.

Instead of political pique and unnecessary confrontation, Green MPs will advocate a policy of consensus based on consistency, responsibility and progressive politics.

Greens in Malta will continue to be the strongest defenders of what is left of Malta’s environmental heritage and will strive towards having public spaces that are accessible to all.

Greens, in contrast to the others, have already proven themselves of not being hostage to big business, hunters, trappers, firework fanatics, Armier squatters and greedy land developers.

We insist on the need for sustainable policies. With over 70,000 vacant dwellings resulting from a land use policy that is anything but sustainable, Greens in Parliament after the March 2013 election will champion the immediate reversal of the rationalisation exercise that has extended unnecessarily the permissible development boundaries.

Water has been mismanaged over the years such that the water table is severely depleted and treated sewage effluent is discarded, being considered as a waste product rather than as an important resource. In the long term, all boreholes in private use should cease to be operational and steps have to be taken to ensure that it is clear to all that the water table is public property.

In contrast to the above, the PN and the PL have taken an ambivalent attitude towards the environment. They bend backwards making efforts to be pleasant to environmentalists, yet, simultaneously echo the demands of those who have been plundering natural resources.

Greens have always stood up for animal rights.

Greens call for socially just economic and social policies, such as the need to increase the minimum wage as well as socially just pensions, including adequate disability pensions. To counter speculation and to discourage the unsustainable use of property, Greens propose taxing vacant properties, from the third property onwards.

AD will continue to be the progressive party, championing humane social policies and equal rights for all: persons with disability, LGBT persons as well as alternative families.

AD is for gender equality, in favour of the right of access to IVF without discrimination, full equality in marriage and family rights for same-sex couples. AD is against all forms of discrimination, including that based on race.

AD will advocate the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use while insisting on the necessity that society helps drug victims to overcome their addiction rather than criminalise them.

Green MPs will be ready to work with MPs from other political parties on the basis of an agreed joint programme and will work to ensure its implementation when in Parliament.

As a minor partner, Greens will strive to develop politics by consensus, conscious that this is a prerequisite essential to the creation of a stable political environment.

Voting for AD is a vote for change in the method of governance that has been corrupted by the two-party system. If you believe in giving priority to social justice, civil rights, environmental justice, sustainable development, ecological modernisation, and, last but not least, the reform in the institutional set-up for the enhancement of democracy, you know where you stand with the Greens.

Voting for the PN and PL signifies voting for a stagnant two-party system.

AD can deliver change. The other parties cannot: they are compromised.

You know where we stand.

published originally in Times of Malta on January 12, 2013

L-ipokrezija tal-Labour Party dwar il-persuni b’diżabilita’

Araw sewwa ir-ritratt ta’ hawn fuq. Dan juri l-parti t’isfel ta’ billboard li l-Labour Party qiegħed f’San Pawl il-Baħar fil-kantuniera bejn il-Coast Road ħdejn Kennedy Grove u t-triq li twassal sal-lukanda Bella Vista.

Kif jidher sewwa l-billboard apparti li b’mod perikoluż qed jistrieħ fuq xi bricks qed jostakola kompletament u għal żmien twil l-użu ta’ rampa intenzjonata għal persuni b’diżabilita’.

Imbagħad il-Labour jieħdu għalihom meta ngħidulhom li jgħidu ħaġa u jagħmlu oħra.