Govt Prepared for Hurricane Season

Photo: Rudranath Fraser Chief Technical Director, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Dionne Jennings, addresses a ceremony to launch Disaster Preparedness Month on June 1 at Jamaica House.

Story Highlights

  • With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season now underway, the ministries and agencies of government responsible for welfare assistance, clearing of roads, and disaster preparedness, are reporting that they are ready for any eventualities.
  • Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Dionne Jennings, says the Ministry is prepared to respond if Jamaica is affected by a storm or hurricane this season.
  • “We have a cadre of 300 social workers and record officers across all 14 parishes, who are now on alert, having had the experience of the latest floods,” Mrs. Jennings says.

With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season now underway, the ministries and agencies of government responsible for welfare assistance, clearing of roads, and disaster preparedness, are reporting that they are ready for any eventualities.

Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Dionne Jennings, says the Ministry is prepared to respond if Jamaica is affected by a storm or hurricane this season.

The Ministry has responsibility for coordinating all welfare activities, inclusive of the provision of relief items to shelters, damage assessment in relation to houses and provision of emergency relief assistance, post disaster.

“We have a cadre of 300 social workers and record officers across all 14 parishes, who are now on alert, having had the experience of the latest floods,” Mrs. Jennings says.

“The team has gone through sensitisation sessions in relation to post disaster registration and assessment of victims, how to complete the assessment forms, the emergency relief application forms and shelter inspection forms,” she informs.

The assessment of household damage is led by the Ministry and is supported by a multi-agency team comprising representatives from Jamaica Red Cross, Salvation Army, Poor Relief Department and the Parish Disaster Officer.

In addition, some 200 social workers have been trained in first aid and Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) across all 14 parishes.

Mrs. Jennings states that all parish managers and administrators and social workers are assigned phones within the closed user group (CUG) service, thus allowing for direct contact and communication island-wide.

“In respect of our emergency supplies, the Ministry has increased the stock at our warehouse… and given the recent floods in April and May, we are currently procuring additional supplies, food and comfort items for the hurricane season,” she further indicates.

Mrs. Jennings says the Ministry has agreements with suppliers in all parishes for the provision of emergency supplies as the need arises.

Communication channels have also been established with donors and disaster management organisations such as Red Cross, Food for the Poor and the Salvation Army.

“We have transportation identified and the fleet of vehicles are serviced and ready for deployment. Our welfare and shelter plan is in activation mode and we have completed (the inspection of) 700 of the 900 shelters island-wide. Those have been inspected to ensure that the distribution of supplies can be accommodated there in,” Mrs. Jennings said.

She adds that all parish health and welfare committees have met and operational procedures reviewed, with each agency reporting on its readiness.

“In terms of the close out phase of the relief operations following a disaster, the Ministry aims to ensure smooth transition to the long-term recovery and preparedness activity. Hence, we look at the coordination of government assistance to these victims. The Ministry, after the damage assessments are completed, will provide compassionate grants to persons who are affected and those who have been assessed by our social workers,” Mrs. Jennings says.

For his part, Manager for Communication and Customer Services at the National Works Agency (NWA), Stephen Shaw, says in the event of a disaster, the agency is responsible for the provision of access to the entire road network.

He notes that the NWA has already started its pre-hurricane mitigation programme, which should be concluded by the end of June.

“Our usual mode of operation is that we undertake work in three phases. We do pre hurricane preparations, where we do mitigation work. We carry out work also around August and then at the back end of the season,” Mr. Shaw informs.

He says that the pre hurricane programme, which started around May 14, is being completed at a cost of some $70 million to $80 million. “Here, we are targeting roughly 192 drains across the island,” he says.

In terms of river training, Mr. Shaw informs that work is ongoing in the Bushy Park area, while work is to be undertaken along the road from Llandewey to Ramble in Yallahs.

The NWA is also to begin work at the Sulphur River in St. Thomas, where a section of the river, which runs from the Bath Fountain was exposed following a breakaway last year.

Mr. Shaw says an embankment was built, which now needs to be protected.

As far as gully works are concerned, he says the NWA is set to begin work on sections of the Sandy Gully.

“We are going to be rehabilitating roughly 200 metres of the Sandy Gully between Drewsland and Balcombe drive. This is being done as part of the Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP),” Mr. Shaw informs.

Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Major Clive Davis, says the agency is ready for all eventualities.

He states that over the past year, the ODPEM and its partners have undertaken public education and training in several communities, schools and businesses across the island.

He said that simulation exercises have been conducted and specialised training for first responders have been undertaken to equip them to manage emergency operation centres, when the need arises.

“The preparations for events of this nature at the ODPEM do not start on June 1. It is an ongoing process. We have a mandate to keep the nation in a perpetual state of readiness. It is an ongoing process, which involves knowing exactly what you could face and putting provisions in place to deal with those vulnerabilities,” Major Davis says.

The United States-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting five to nine hurricanes, with two to four of them Category 3 or stronger. The forecast calls for 11 to 17 tropical systems.

JIS Social