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The country’s level of disaster preparedness has significantly improved, when compared to previous years, Minister Dean Peart has asserted.
Making his contribution to the 2006/2007 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday (July 26), the Local Government and Environment Minister pointed out that over the last few years, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), which is an agency of the Ministry, has employed several measures to increase its level of pro-active responses.
He said these measures included increasing public education campaigns on relevant areas of disaster management; posting shelter listings on the ODPEM website and at strategic locations in parishes; conducting appropriate training and consultancy services in the areas of disaster preparedness, loss reduction and response; and co-ordinating the provision of relief to disaster victims.
The Minister told the House that the government was also maintaining strong partnerships with agencies similar in nature to the ODPEM in the region and internationally, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
He conceded that although the country’s level of disaster preparedness was currently better than years before, should a category three hurricane struck, the island would still require international assistance.
“In this regard, we have developed a database of persons to assist in relief distribution. We have so far trained over 2,200 persons islandwide to assist in disaster management. This figure includes some 1,500 National Youth Service participants, 400 shelter managers, 388 community response persons and also a response team from St. Mary,” he said. Outlining a number of priority areas that the government was pursuing to attend to its level of disaster preparedness, Minister Peart said they included the establishment of a hazard mitigation unit, increasing stock levels to support 10,000 displaced persons, and adequately addressing the needs of persons already displaced.
He indicated that other priority areas were the identification of additional warehousing space, and establishing communications with critical agencies across the island.
On the establishment of a hazard mitigation unit, the Minister said the unit was set to coincide with the major overhaul of the planning framework with the formulation of three development orders.
The Minister advised that a hazard mitigation committee would be formed, which would consider a number of policies, plans and projects currently being undertaken by various Ministries and agencies.