JIS News

Director General of Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Dr. Barbara Carby, has encouraged the media to continue to reinforce disaster preparedness messages.
She noted that while there was a high level of awareness of precautionary information on the path of the public, far too many persons were still dying during disasters such as floods.
“The public is hearing the message, yet they are still crossing flooded gullies,” Dr. Carby pointed out, as she addressed one day national media seminar entitled: ‘Emergency Broadcasting, Early Warning Messages and the Jamaican Media’ at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on June 21. The seminar was organized by the ODPEM in association with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Relief Agency (CDERA).
Dr. Carby pointed out that the building code, which has not yet been enacted into law, needed to be examined, as persons continued to settle in unsuitable areas. “We also need to look at how we carry out physical development”, she said, while questioning whether “our economic investments (were) protected by adequate risk analysis?” She also queried, whether government should engage in some risk transfer strategies such as insurance, as well as the responsibility of each citizen in ensuring his/her safety.
Meanwhile, Professor Aggrey Brown, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Humanities at the University of the West Indies, challenged the media to pay attention to other emergencies such as a terrorism attack, which he said should not be ruled out in Jamaica.
In analyzing the performance of the media during Hurricane Ivan, Professor Brown said that in disseminating information to the public, the media needed to have communicated precisely where the hurricane was at a given time. He argued that if this had been done, then the level of devastation at Portland Cottage might not have occurred. “No one knew where Ivan was at one point and the hurricane was just sitting at a point, which we later found out,” he said.
Professor Brown noted also, that it was important for radio stations to partner with each other to deliver emergency messages. “Forget the business of competition when you are facing a disaster. It is okay to carry the signal of your competitor then,” he said, while urging the media to consider this as an option when planning for the current season.
Merrick Needham, Consultant and former broadcaster, said that the radio stations could have provided more relevant information to the public during Hurricane Ivan. He pointed out, that details pertaining to the hurricane should have been disseminated at particular times. “You have to realize that people did not have time to listen to chatty shows. We must get out of the assumption that people are listening throughout. That is not the case so people need quick information so they could turn off their radios and save the batteries,” he stated.
He too agreed, that the media could have been more accurate in tracking the path of the hurricane. “We have had the misconception that because the eye had not passed that we had not been hit,” Mr. Needham noted.
Based on the observations and the questions raised, the ODPEM will be looking at what can be done differently in the event that the country experiences a major hurricane this season.