Jamaica Becoming “Disaster Resilient”


Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Mr. Ronald Jackson, says that long term measures have been put in place to make Jamaica “disaster resilient”.
The assurance comes ahead of the start of the 2010 North Atlantic Hurricane Season on June 1.
“The issue of preparedness is viewed from a strategic perspective. It is not a process we see as a one-off situation. It has to be sustained and it has to go beyond just an annual investment, more medium to long term to be successful and to ensure that Jamaica is truly.disaster resilient,” he said.
Mr. Jackson was speaking at a press conference observing May as Hurricane Preparedness Month, at the agency’s Haining Road office in Kingston, on Thursday (April 29).
He noted that the agency has been focusing on addressing and attacking the underlying drivers of risks, through long-term programmes and initiatives. He added that the recovery methods are also aimed at reducing the vulnerability of persons who have been impacted by these disasters.
“One such project that we have embarked on over the last year is the recovery project following Tropical Storm Gustav, where we have so far managed to retrofit 1,100 of 1,500 roofs of houses across the eastern end of the island,” he said.
He noted that the aim is to ensure that the houses that are retrofitted will not be on the list of those affected whenever another disaster occurs.
Parishes which have benefited from the programme so far are: Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine, St. Thomas, Portland, Westmoreland, St. Ann and Manchester. Through the programme significant skills were passed on during the rebuilding process.
Another critical measure will be public education campaigns, to inform persons about reducing the vulnerability of their homes, schools and businesses.
The Director General noted that, through partnerships with Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), work has been ongoing with communities to make them more resilient.
“It involves training, capacity building in first aid, search and rescue and also helping them to design disaster management plans,” he said. He added that this will ensure that communities identify areas of vulnerability and approaches to mitigate the vulnerability.
Mr. Jackson also advised that ODPEM is assisting residents in communities prone to flooding, to better prepare themselves to deal with any setback and dislocation resulting from the onset of severe weather. He disclosed that, currently, there are several ongoing projects, aimed at making communities “more resilient to disasters.”
He noted that radios have been installed in several Parish Councils, as a means of communication wherever the need arises, and 120 shelter managers have been trained.
Technical tools and aids to guide decision making will also be used in the process of identifying the areas of risk, mapping them and providing the tools for the decision makers to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
Mr. Jackson said that while these measures are deemed important, personal responsibility is a critical component and element in the level of disaster preparedness.
“We have to understand that how we treat with the natural environment, removal of trees on some of our steep and unstable slopes, the dumping of waste in the water ways, cannot be allowed to continue and we have to arrest that at the individual and the community level,” he said.
He is also encouraging the private sector to become more engaged with regards to risk mitigation in the island, urging individuals to acknowledge the importance of early preparedness.

JIS Social