- Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said that personal responsibility is essential in earthquake management.
- “We need to rid ourselves of the attitude that ‘It can’t happen to me’ and accept that earthquakes and other disasters can happen anytime and anywhere,” he said in a message read by Director of rban and Regional Planning in the Ministry, Marsha Henry-Martin.
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The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is observing Earthquake Awareness Week from January 7-13 under the theme ‘Preparing for the quake helps reduce damage after the shake’.
The week was officially launched on Monday (January 8) at ODPEM’s Haining Road offices in St. Andrew.
Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said that personal responsibility is essential in earthquake management.
He cited the 1907 Kingston earthquake, in which more than 1,000 people died, as a reminder of the country’s vulnerability and the devastation such disasters can cause.
“We need to rid ourselves of the attitude that ‘It can’t happen to me’ and accept that earthquakes and other disasters can happen anytime and anywhere,” he said in a message read by Director of rban and Regional Planning in the Ministry, Marsha Henry-Martin.
The Minister noted that the Building Bill 2017, which aims to address a wide range of construction and spatial issues, including squatting, will put Jamaica in a better position to prepare for earthquakes and other disasters.
The Bill has been passed by the House of Representatives and is being debated in the Senate.
Minister McKenzie said that there are more than 30,000 households in over 700 informal settlements islandwide, and the housing stock in many of them is vulnerable to tremors.
“If half of the provisions of the Building Bill, inclusive of the Building Code, are obeyed by ordinary citizens, developers and construction industry practitioners, then I can assure you that Earthquake Awareness Week will have real meaning, and confidence in national preparedness and infrastructural resilience will rapidly rise,” he contended.
Director General of ODPEM, Major Clive Davis, in his address, noted that Jamaica is located in a highly active seismic zone that experiences an average of 200 earthquakes annually.
He said that over the years, the agency has taken steps to mitigate and prepare the nation for the possible impacts of major earthquakes.
These include undertaking earthquake awareness and sensitisation programmes; staging simulation exercises in earthquake and tsunami responses; and equipping personnel with tools and skills to respond in the aftermath of disasters.
Dr. Davis informed that in partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI), seismographs have been installed in several schools and teachers trained to manage the devices. The equipment will be installed in a number of other schools shortly.
He further cited the installation of a pilot tsunami and multipurpose hazard warning siren in the Old Harbour Bay community, and simulation exercises, noting that another three communities will benefit from similar intervention in short order.
He said ODPEM has also partnered with the Earthquake Unit to produce micro zonation maps in Falmouth, Annotto Bay and Linstead. “It is expected, that over the next two years, under two major projects… another five communities (will) be influenced in the same manner,” he informed.
Earthquake Awareness Week activities will include volunteer training for media practitioners under the National Disaster Risk Management Volunteers’ Programme on January 9; special awareness sessions for businesses and ODPEM staff on January 11 and January 12, respectively; a live broadcast on January 14; and a day for schools on January 17.