ODPEM Embarks on Earthquake Awareness Campaign

Photo: Melroy Sterling Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Major Clive Davis.

Story Highlights

  • 'The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is embarking on a three-month education campaign aimed at raising national awareness about earthquake preparedness and mitigation.
  • The campaign, under the theme ‘Drop. Cover. Hold…Earthquake readiness is within your control’ was officially launched yesterday (January 9) at the ODPEM’s Haining Road offices, St. Andrew.
  • Earthquake awareness activities will include an outside broadcast on January 13 in observance of the 110th anniversary of the 1907 earthquake, Open Day for schools on January 25, Week for Business from January 29-February 4, and emergency operation centre training for ODPEM staff on March 15 and 16.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is embarking on a three-month education campaign aimed at raising national awareness about earthquake preparedness and mitigation.

The campaign, under the theme ‘Drop. Cover. Hold… Earthquake readiness is within your control’ was officially launched yesterday (January 9) at the ODPEM’s Haining Road offices, St. Andrew.

Activities, over the period January to March, will include expositions across the island and awareness days for businesses and schools.

Director General of the ODPEM, Major Clive Davis, said Jamaica is located in a highly active seismic zone that experiences an average of 200 earthquakes annually.

He noted that the country has suffered destructive earthquakes in the past and there is a high probability for a recurrence of similar events. Local experts believe that Jamaica’s major fault has the potential to generate a 7.5 to 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

“Recognising that a catastrophic earthquake could easily create the greatest natural-hazard threat to our citizens and the economy, the ODPEM is adamant about building a culture of risk identification, risk reduction and preparedness,” Major Davis said.

“It is envisioned that the ODPEM will continue to build a culture of safety among individuals, households and organisations about earthquake and tsunami hazards and the consequences,” he added.

Major Davis said the Government, though the ODPEM, continues to work closely with its partners, both locally and internationally, to build Jamaica’s seismic resilience.

He noted that the agency is working towards a comprehensive, integrated national programme aimed at reducing loss of life and property. He said that attention to building codes and community awareness are, therefore, high on the agenda.

For his part, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Denzil Thorpe, said one of the best ways to prepare for earthquakes is to ensure that buildings are properly constructed for residential and business purposes.

“Properly constructed not only means that the right materials are used but also that officially trained people are hired, that the appropriate designs are prepared, and permission is sought from the local authorities for construction to take place,” he noted.

Mr. Thorpe said that breaches of the construction guidelines are common throughout Jamaica, and the Government is determined to address the situation.

“Our concerns are not limited to the problems that accompany adverse possession, or squatting. They extend to illegitimate activities by persons who are lawful property owners, for example, homeowners and business owners, who extend their buildings sideways or add another floor, without the permission of a municipal corporation,” he pointed out.

Mr. Thorpe said that not only do such practices breach the law, but there are implications for structural integrity over time, as well as during a disaster, such as an earthquake.

“It intensifies the risk of serious injury and death during and after an earthquake. The potential for unmanageable strain on all our health facilities has increased many times over,” he added.

He challenged the ODPEM to intensify its work “of making our citizens aware and appreciative of the implications for them, if they continue to defy the critical rules that have been created for their safety and well-being”. Mr. Thorpe said.

Earthquake awareness activities will include an outside broadcast on January 13 in observance of the 110th anniversary of the 1907 earthquake, Open Day for schools on January 25, Week for Business from January 29-February 4, and emergency operation centre training for ODPEM staff on March 15 and 16.

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