JIS News

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has retrofitted 1,103 houses in five parishes and trained 235 persons in safer building techniques, following the passage of Tropical Storm Gustav, which ravaged sections of the island in 2008.

Programme Coordinator of the Tropical Gustav Recovery Project, Kirk Frankson, made the revelation at a Think Tank held on March 2 at the JIS’ head offices at 58a Half-Way-Tree Road in Kingston to provide details of the ODPEM’s intervention following the passage of the storm.

He informed that the work was facilitated under the Safe House Project, which was undertaken through £500,000 in funding from the United Kingdom-based Department for International Development (DFID). The Jamaica Red Cross, Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC), Social Development Commission (SDC), and the HEART Trust/NTA, partnered with ODPEM to undertake the work.

A total of 1,500 households in the parishes of St. Mary, St. Thomas, Portland, Kingston, and St. Andrew, were targeted to benefit under the project, with the assistance to comprise housing repairs and mitigation training to reduce the effects of future natural disasters.

Explaining why not all 1,500 houses were worked on, Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson said that further assessment showed that some of the units did not fulfill the criteria, as they had received little damage or were too extensively damaged to be repaired with the funds provided.

In the meantime, he said that the agency was placing focus on building disaster-resilient communities, rather than reacting to such events.

“Part of the organisation’s mandate is to reduce the vulnerability of our citizens to the various hazards, both climate-related and otherwise. Following Tropical Storm Gustav, we took a look at the extent of the damage and recognised that our focus had to be on building resilience,” Mr. Jackson said.

He noted further that ODPEM’s aim is to  always “build back better” to help ameliorate problems after a disaster, “and making sure that people are better able to withstand a disaster of the same or of a higher magnitude the next time around”.

Mr. Frankson, in the meantime, cited JIS’ comprehensive two-year public education campaign, which supported ODPEM’s intervention, noting that the education thrust benefitted persons across a wide socio-economic group in the targeted parishes, and is now being passed on to other community members.