Editorial Advisory Panel Member Robert McAlister, is back in Sierra Leone and presents his fourth blog, which examines training in the critical infrastructure sector.
The port in Freetown appears to be thriving (123rf / Leonardo Viti)
One of the litmus tests of good training delivery has to be that the participants come back the following day energised and enthusiastic to learn more. So I was delighted to see another day’s full attendance of the group and with a positive approach to the subject matter.
This was more complimentary, given they have a busy day job as senior staff with the Office of National Security (ONS) with a far reaching span of demand and control.
After an overview approach yesterday, today it was time to delve into the detail and look in more focus at the strengths and weaknesses of critical infrastructure and services to highlight their importance and reasons to protect and secure.
Interestingly, this promoted great interaction and debate given historic and up-to-date power delivery issues in Sierra Leone.
This is even more important given the current economic situation here and the potential for a reduced preventative maintenance regime in these sectors.
The Office of National Service has faced many challenges recently
You do get the feeling as you move around Freetown that, as a result of continuous crises, some of these areas have been neglected.
On the flip side the road infrastructure is improving, and a colleague who is here with me was impressed with the quality after a few years' absence. The port appears to be thriving with container ships continuously coming and going, thereby ensuring economic resilience. Protecting business critical functions needs to be prioritised and maintained if Sierra Leone is to regain its financial position pre-Ebola.
As the world’s media has placed this country under a fairly intense microscope, with that has come the inevitable – though unfair –tarnished image. So strategic communications and media handling is a key learning point that was covered in the second half of the day.
Reputations are built or destroyed on media handling, proactive messages and strong leadership are key ingredients to surviving international media attention.
The people at the ONS know better than anyone what it is like to be on the receiving end of bad publicity with Ebola and recent floods. But I dare say many far more developed disaster management agencies would struggle with what the last year here delivered into their laps.
If there are some key learning points to come from their experiences these must be to implement robust risk reduction strategies and plans, continue and maintain good practice structures and procedures learnt from Ebola and continuous development of multi-agency working across all ministries and agencies.
As I turn in for the evening, the now familiar rain returns, completely obscuring any view of the landscape. With a dense heavy fog now in place and back to back Rick Astley tunes filtering up from the bar and restaurant below me, I settle in for another night of what I now call ‘Fuzz TV’, as I can get a brief signal off around two channels intermittently.
The bonus of all this is that I can spend quality time CRJ blogging!
Robert McAlister, a Member of CRJ's Editorial Advisory Panel, is currently providing training in Sierra Leone