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NEMO – an interesting organization

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Tue, Jul 24. 2012

Editor: I have been working for three decades, voluntarily and involuntarily, in institutions and organizations. However, I find the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) to be the most interesting organization I’ve ever come across. For a national institution with such an important mandate (Disaster management), my observations at NEMO make me laugh.{{more}}

Sir, can you believe that the staff has not met since September of 2011? – a few meetings have been called to address specific activities, but no staff meeting in ten months and even the commencement of the Hurricane season has not motivated management to meet with staff on ‘How do we do it this year?’.

Editor, NEMO has one person who has formal training in disaster management. However, there appear to be no real plans to build the organization’s capacity in Disaster Management/Disaster Risk Reduction/DRR, except for attending a few in-house sessions. For example, three overseas’ training opportunities for persons in DRR were offered to NEMO, in 2012, and the Director (Ag) did not recommend any of her staff, even if she continuously laments their limitations relative to this area.

Sir, a top management officer makes NEMO an interesting creature. That person is discourteous to particular staff members and clients. In early June, NEMO had a major storm as that person lashed out loudly, having a brawl – a real shouting match with staff members in the office even with overseas volunteers in the

building. At NEMO, one worker who management says cursed expletives on clients and lapses with work is not given a reprimand; however, another who does her work well and is disciplined, who is late

fifteen minutes for lunch, gets a warning letter. NEMO is very special; workers are insulted and called names by the senior management. Names like “ground zero”.

NEMO is extremely different. One case in point – several months ago, management barred the phones from local calls, without even informing staff. The Executive Officer only knew when reporting a fault to LIME (repeatedly) to be told the lines were barred. Mind you, he kept informing that the phones (especially in the General Office) were not working. This is indeed a unique organization!

Sir, workers are targeted if they make suggestions or question particular things. For example, in April, seven barrels of items were sent to a top politician. Noting that there were no events, disasters or emergencies in that area, a few questions were asked, a few comments and suggestions made about the implications of such and the need to have policies to guide such deliveries. However, the result is that the person who made those comments has not been given any tasks to perform since that.

NEMO is really an intriguing enterprise. Experiences there teach me new things re: power, procedure and more. For example, a matter in which a worker, who believes she was getting unfair treatment from the second in command, wrote to that person expressing her concern and humbly asking for fair treatment. The number two referred the matter straight to the Permanent Secretary without consulting the Director. Sir, NEMO is really interesting. I sometimes call it the upside down organization.

Sir, coming from school, which has assessment and/or evaluation at the centre of all things, makes my stint at NEMO even more fascinating. There is no evaluation of programmes. The school safety programmes, among other community programmes, are not evaluated for strengths, weaknesses and improvement, even if suggestions are made internally and by external consultants. We just go through the motions!

Editor, what makes my stint even more interesting is that NEMO teaches business houses and government departments and some schools Disaster Management or how to prepare for disaster/DRR, including developing Disaster Plans; yet, NEMO has no plans of its own to secure its workers and office if there is an event.

Sir, the fact that management incites chaos is also another lesson learnt from this interesting organization. It is not uncommon to see management in open verbal confrontation in the presence of nearly most workers.

Sir, sometimes I wonder if NEMO is managing disasters or is itself …!

Otto Sam

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