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Story Highlights

  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness says Jamaica must be prepared to respond to regional disasters, not only for humanitarian reasons but to safeguard national security.
  • The Prime Minister, who is Chairman of the Council, said he takes his role very seriously and sees himself as “an active, working participant”.
  • As Chairman of the Council, the Prime Minister is the overall manager of the nation’s preparedness, mitigation, recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness says Jamaica must be prepared to respond to regional disasters, not only for humanitarian reasons but to safeguard national security.

“It is in our interest that we are also able to respond to disasters in other areas, because a disaster in a neighbouring country could mean refugees for health and economic purposes,” he pointed out.

He noted further that a breakdown of law and order in a neighbouring country due to a disaster, could threaten the island’s security, through the influx of drugs and guns.

Mr. Holness was addressing Thursday’s (June 29) meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.

He commended the collaborative approach of the Council towards strengthening the country’s capacity to respond in the event of a disaster.

The Prime Minister, who is Chairman of the Council, said he takes his role very seriously and sees himself as “an active, working participant”.

“I will be keeping a close eye to ensure that the agencies are working together, that the protocols are seamless, that there is logistical rationality in what we do, and that we are prepared as a Government to address any eventuality regardless of our resources,” he said.

He noted further that “we must be prepared to give the Jamaican people a level of comfort that the Jamaican State can respond in the event of a disaster”.

Mr. Holness charged the council to establish a plan for the continuation of Government in the event of a major catastrophe where the line of authority is broken, and to identify a location from which the State can operate.

The Council met to discuss disaster policy matters, including the country’s readiness to respond.

Some of the areas addressed were communications, health, the meteorological service, cyber attacks, climate change issues, and protecting the nation’s borders.

The council, formerly called the National Disaster Committee (NDC), manages Jamaica’s disaster programme, which encompasses all aspects of planning for and responding to catastrophes before, during, and after such occurrences.

It includes all government ministries and utility companies; international donor agencies such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross; and search and rescue organisations such as the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB).

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is the main body within the council responsible for coordinating the management of the various types of disasters that affect the nation.

As Chairman of the Council, the Prime Minister is the overall manager of the nation’s preparedness, mitigation, recovery and rehabilitation efforts.