Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, is encouraging Jamaicans to take greater responsibility in preparing for and mitigating against the effects of natural disasters.
“The emphasis cannot be (solely) on the Government… We can only do as much as we can….but we must, as we go into this hurricane season, start the conversation and the conservation must be what our responsibility is as citizens of this country in times of disasters,” he said.
The Minister was speaking at the launch of the national hurricane preparedness campaign at Banquet Hall, Jamaica House on June 8.
Mr. McKenzie urged Jamaicans to heed evacuation warnings, pointing out that the refusal to do so, will put their lives and the lives of the first responders at risk.
He said regulations under the Disaster Risk Management Act which seeks to strengthen the country’s overall national disaster preparedness and emergency management through a range of measures, will be enforced.
“We are looking at certain other regulations to strengthen the Act, but the Act as it presently stands, can be enforced and it will be this year,” he said.
Mr. McKenzie explained that a key part of mitigation calls for the collective participation of all stakeholders across the country.
“The way we trim our trees, the way we dispose of our garbage, storing cement, sand, gravel and blocks on our roadways; cutting down the hillside to build houses, cutting down the hillsides to plant coffee, to burn coal are areas that have affected us as a country. These are areas where we must start to ensure that we put in the process of mitigation [as] we cannot depend on Government alone to do it,” he emphasized.
Mr. McKenzie added that while the Government will play its role in ensuring that improvement efforts are undertaken, Jamaicans need to be active participants as well.
He mentioned that the country has spent billions of dollars on clean up and recovery efforts following the passage of storms and hurricanes.
“Over the last year, the rains that we have experienced have created more pressure on Government resources, it is estimated that over $6 billion was incurred on the country,” he said.
For his part, Director, Meteorological Service of Jamaica, Evan Thompson said the 2018 season is expected to be active with 10 to 16 tropical storms, five to nine hurricanes and between one and four major hurricanes (category three and above).
He added that Jamaicans can prepare themselves by listening to warning messages issued by the Meteorological Service of Jamaica.
“We present our warnings by the electronic and print media, the forecasts are sent to the media every day,” he said, adding that persons may also dial 116 for the latest recorded message or visit the social media pages of the organisation at metservice.gov.jm.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.