The official hurricane season is June 1 to November 30. The period is usually a rainy one even if a hurricane does not develop.
As a statutory body, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) operates out of the Office of the Prime Minister with a Board of Management overseeing its activities.
The ODPEM has the unique role of being the only government agency to provide disaster management functions in Jamaica. Its operations are designed towards:
- Developing and implementing policies and programmes for the purpose of achieving and maintaining an appropriate state of national preparedness for natural disasters and other emergency events.
- To encourage and support disaster preparedness and mitigation measures in all parishes in association with Local Government authorities, community based organizations and private and voluntary agencies.
- Providing early warning, emergency response, relief and recovery operations in emergency situations.
- Advocating and supporting risk reduction measures.
- Providing training in all areas of disaster management.
- Promoting a greater national awareness for disaster management issues through public education and awareness.
- Conducting hazard identification and risk assessments.
- Conducting research in social behaviour in relation to disaster mitigation an response .
- Establishing and maintaining mutual assistance and co-operation agreements among partner agencies, private sector and international donor organizations.
When preparing for a hurricane, ensure you do the following:
- Check on these emergency items: water, boots, raincoats, flashlights and batteries, battery-powered radio, hurricane lamp, matches, hurricane shutters, hooks and latches.
- Keep plastic bags, nails, hammer and other tools handy.
- Have on hand simple first aid supplies.
- Stock 4-5 days supply of food that does not need cooking or refrigeration.
- Make sure you have material for battening up doors and windows.
- See that galvanized sheeting on your roofs, out-buildings and fences are securely fastened.
- If your house is in a high risk area, subject to a storm surge (tidal wave) or flooding, be sure you know of a safe shelter; preferably with relatives or friends.
- Trim trees with branches near to buildings or electrical lines. Also pick fruits off trees as these can be carried by the wind and cause further damage.
- Be sure to understand the hurricane warning system. That is the three phases – Alert, Watch and Warning. These are indicators of how far away the hurricane is from your location.
- Keep in touch with your Parish Disaster Preparedness Committee and know how the committee works.
What to do Before, During and After a Hurricane:
At the Start of the Hurricane Season:
- Check thoroughly the roof of your house, hurricane shutters, hooks and latches and repair where necessary.
- Make sure that galvanized sheeting on the roof of your house is properly fastened.
- Keep in stock extra plastic bags and sheets of plastic. Plastic is essential to prevent important documents, paintings, equipment and furniture from getting wet.
- Keep handy a supply of lumbar, plywood, timber, etc. for battening down purposes.
- Trim trees that touch power lines or hang over the house and other buildings.
- Make sure that emergency cooking facilities such as coal stoves are in good working condition as these may be necessary.
- Make sure you have a supply of kerosene and coal. Keep coal dry by wrapping in a plastic bag or other waterproof material.
- Latch down securely all small buildings in the yard such as outdoor kitchens, pit latrines, tool sheds, barns, etc.
- Store extra food, especially things that can be eaten without cooking or which need very little preparation. Electricity may be off during a hurricane, leaving you without refrigeration.
- Place emergency food supply in a waterproof container and store in a closed box, cupboard or trunk.
- Make sure you have emergency equipment in your home. These include waterboots, raincoats, flashlights, batteries, portable radio, kerosene lamps and matches.
- Have simple first-aid equipment such as iodine, bandages, eye lotion, etc. at home.
During a Hurricane:
- Do not go outside unless it is absolutely necessary. When the winds get very strong, you are in danger of being hit by flying objects.
- Children should not be taken outside, since they may be in danger of being blown away.
- If you are away from home, remain where you are until the hurricane has passed. Many people have lost their lives trying to go from one place to another.
- Keep a hurricane lamp burning, as it may make the night more tolerable.
- If the house shows signs of breaking up, stay under a table or stand in a sturdy closet.
- Be prepared for material falling from the ceiling.
- If your glass windows have not been boarded up, place a large heavy object in front of the window to protect yourself and others from splintering glass.
- Be calm! Your ability to act logically is important.
- Listen to the radio for information on what is happening.
After a Hurricane:
- Seek medical attention at first-aid stations, hospitals or clinics for persons injured during the storm.
- Do not touch loose or dangling electrical wires. Report these to the power company, the nearest police station or parish council.
- Report all broken sewer or water mains directly to the parish council, the public works department or water resources authority for your area.
- Immediately after the hurricane don’t use stored water for washing houses, cars and watering gardens until normal water services have been restored.
- Do not empty water stored in bathtubs or other receptacles until safe drinking water is restored.
- Boil all drinking water until you are sure that a safe water supply has been restored.
- Watch out for fallen trees. Collect fallen branches and other debris and pile them where they can be easily collected.
- Do not go outside barefooted. Avoid wearing open shoes and watch out for broken glass.