PEOPLE OF 2020: First responders to emergencies

When one of the worst incidents of flash flooding in recent memory hit Samoa two weeks ago, the damage was enormous. From Apia to Aleipata and all the way to Falealupo on the big island of Savai’i, the destructive power of the water ensured our vulnerability when it comes to infrastructural developments was widely exposed.

Roads, fords and bridges were demolished. Homes, businesses and many properties were destroyed. Landslides blocked access to many parts of the island. Electricity was knocked out. Water pipes were damaged cutting water supply to most parts of the country.

Closer to Apia, the speed with which the water rose in residential areas was remarkably frightening. On that Friday morning, not many people would have expected rain from a convergence zone to bring about such destructive floods but they did and it happened so quickly.

Today, this country is still reeling in the aftermath. But we are a lot better today then we were two weeks ago thanks to the tireless work of so many people in the public service whom we are referring to today as the “First Responders.”

It’s true that the politicians come up with the plans and they often take the glory when it works. What it’s not talked about often is that when those decisions go wrong, the politicians hide their faces, forcing these critical First Responders to the rescue.

During and after the flooding two weeks ago, we saw this in action once more. When parts of the nation were in darkness, the Electric Power Corporation workforce worked day and night to restore light and power. While everyone was sleeping, they were out there with their torches, ladders still toiling away.

It was the same with the Samoa Water Authority and their team. While the nation was without water supply, they were not sleeping. They were out there working, some for up to three straight days, to ensure the water supply was safe and restored.

On the roads when they were inaccessible and blocked, the team from the Land Transport Authority and their partners were on the move. The roading network provides a critical connection that allows all other essential services to function which makes this task extremely vital.

But in the heat of any natural disasters, the team of Police officers and F.E.S.A rescue workers provide hope and a lifeline to many. While people backed off and ran away from flooded areas, Police officers and F.E.S.A. officials did not. They stood their ground and did as much as they could to save lives. Up there at the national hospital and other health centres, doctors, nurses and health workers stood by ready to perform their role.

People have every right to complain when these basic services are not available but very few people know the challenges and what it takes especially during a national natural disaster.

Today, we believe it is very important to pay tribute to the work of these particular public servants and all who are involved in the first line of response to natural and man made disasters in a bid to save lives and protect Samoa.

There is a time and day where appropriate acknowledgement must be made to appreciate good honest hard work. Public servants, such as these people, are at the coalface of policy development, service delivery and when things don’t go well, they cop a lot of flak. Many of them are often the unsung heroes; their roles largely go unnoticed and unappreciated.

But lost in the criticism is the fact they work hard and they do their jobs. These are public servants who walk an extra mile, and go beyond the call of duty, to help and to serve their people and country.

Today is an opportunity for all of us to say thank you. Today is an opportunity to give praise where it is due and acknowledge their work. We want them to know that they are appreciated and as a nation, we are grateful.





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