JIS News

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  • The country’s disaster preparedness and emergency management systems have been deemed ready and equipped to deal with possible eventualities.
  • This assurance emerged at the annual National Disaster Committee meeting held at Jamaica House on Wednesday, June 18.
  • Director of the Meteorological Service, Jeffery Spooner, informed the meeting that the agency is ready to provide timely and accurate weather forecasting during this year’s hurricane season.

The country’s disaster preparedness and emergency management systems have been deemed ready and equipped to deal with possible eventualities which could arise during the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season.

This assurance emerged at the annual National Disaster Committee meeting held at Jamaica House on Wednesday, June 18.

The meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, was attended by representatives from several public and private sector organisations, which are involved in disaster mitigation.

These included: the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM); National Works Agency (NWA); the Ministries of Health; Local Government and Community Development; and Labour and Social Security;  the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB);  National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA); and National Meteorological Service.

Director of the Meteorological Service, Jeffery Spooner, informed the meeting that the agency is ready to provide timely and accurate weather forecasting during this year’s hurricane season.

“We are proud to report that the Doppler radar has continued to perform satisfactorily and we have sufficient critical spare parts that will allow for significant reduction in our down time,” he stated.

Mr. Spooner noted that while the Met Service has had challenges over the years with its radar, the equipment has been successfully repaired, and is now fully operational.

He also noted that the Upper Air Station has been repaired, through the help of the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“They repaired and returned the system to us and it is up and functional; and so we are now in a position to fulfil our mandate,” Mr. Spooner said.

Regarding the Met Office’s early warning system, he informed that there is a network of 49 automatic weather stations with at least one in each parish.

He noted that “from this, we are able to get real time information coming into the Met Service that will enable us to put out our early warnings in a timely manner.”

Meanwhile, Acting Director General of the ODPEM, Richard Thompson, said the agency has, since last year, undertaken a number of activities aimed at strengthening the capacity of the nation to effectively deal with the impact of disasters, particularly storms and hurricanes.

Among such activities were a number of community preparedness initiatives, geared at improving the coordination and readiness of various stakeholders. These included training in first aid; shelter management; light-level land search and rescue; initial damage assessment; and overall disaster awareness.

In terms of its emergency response coordination, Mr. Thompson said the ODPEM, in collaboration with the Parish Councils, continues to carry out assessments of all shelters across the island.

For his part, Chief Executive Officer of the NWA, E.G. Hunter, said the agency has commenced drain cleaning activities across the island to mitigate flooding, in the event of a hurricane.

He informed that the NWA has distributed $50 million islandwide to each parish to intensify the activities.

“We have another drain cleaning programme (coming up) sometime in late July, and there is another component that we hope to start by September or October,” he disclosed.

The NOAA has predicted a likely below-normal 2014 Hurricane Season, with a total of eight to 13 named storms forecast.