Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Major Clive Davis, says Jamaica is taking seriously its responsibility to build the country’s resilience against disasters.
He told JIS News in a recent interview that a number of measures have been put in place, including the strengthening of capacity at the local level.
“We’ve continued to build the capacity of the municipal corporations [so that] the responsibility for communities and parishes rests now with the municipal corporations. By better managing the disaster risk that [communities] are exposed to, it is bound to reduce financial cost to the nation,” he noted.
One major activity is improving emergency communication in the event of a disaster.
“In an arrangement with the government of Japan, Jamaica is also embarking on an improvement in its emergency communication systems. A brand-new state-of-the-art system will be put in place, which will not only allow us to talk to municipal corporations in the event of a disaster but every response agency on the communication network,” Major Davis disclosed.
In addition to a new communication system, multiple risk-management programmes will be initiated. One such programme is the Jamaica Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project, under which three fire stations will be built.
Major Davis further told JIS News that “studies will be done on some coastal communities, so that we can put systems in place to protect them, and disaster plans are going to be prepared for some 15 or 18 communities in those areas in order to make them more resilient”.
While the 2016 World Risk Index ranked Jamaica among the countries with the highest disaster risk, there has been a decline in the disaster-related loss since 2015.
The ODPEM Director General told JIS News that in addition to fewer major events, the reduction in losses can be attributed to ODPEM’s public education campaigns and “support from the Government of Jamaica and the media and the positive response of Jamaicans to the recommendations that we give them in order to avoid becoming causalities (during disasters)”.
Jamaica will join the global community in observing International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) on October 13 under the local theme: ‘Disasters Have a Human Cost’.
IDDR is a designation of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to promote disaster resilience and reduce exposure to disasters.
ODPEM will be mounting exhibitions at several parish libraries across the island to increase awareness about disaster risk reduction and resilience.
Decreasing disaster-related economic loss is Target C of the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, to which Jamaica is a signatory.
The Sendai Framework is a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement, which recognises that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.