JIS News

Local Government officials are being urged to assert themselves more in disaster mitigation and management.
At a workshop hosted by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the Department of Local Government, at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, Friday (October 9), Mayors, Secretary Managers and Parish Disaster Co-ordinators were engaged in discussion on their roles and responsibilities in Jamaica’s disaster management framework.
Keynote speaker at the event, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minster with responsibility for Local Government, Hon Robert Montague, stated that many Mayors appear timid when dealing with disasters, because they are unsure of their roles.
However, he told those present that they were the most powerful authority during a disaster, as they are in a position to marshal Government’s resources in their respective parishes.
“The Mayors have that absolute authority during a disaster, because you must do everything that is humanly possible to protect life and property,” he said.
He stated that entities such as the National Works Agency (NWA) and the National Water Commission (NWC), as well as assets such as schools and courthouses, are all at the disposal of the Parish Council during disasters. He denounced the practice of Government offices setting up their own disaster response centres.
“This nonsense about NWA having their own operation centre, Water Commission having their own, Public Health having their own and everybody is all over the place. You have one emergency operation centre in every parish, and any Mayor that allows any other entity to have any other operation centre is going to be answerable to me, because that’s confusion,” he stressed.
Mr. Montague also said that the Local Authorities need to map out communities within their jurisdiction to ensure they know where everyone lives, as well as develop community telephone directories for disaster personnel to be able to contact residents.
In addition, he implored all Mayors to ensure they have up-to-date evacuation plans for their parishes, and especially for the infirmaries. He also addressed the role of the Parish Councils in ensuring that building plans for homes are not approved in flood-prone areas.
Among the other areas addressed by Mr. Montague were: the issuing of orders for relocation before a disaster; repair of shelters ahead of disasters; and, helping to identify persons in need of assistance following a disaster.
The Strengthening Partnerships for Disaster Risk Reduction workshop is part of a series of activities being undertaken by the Building Disaster Resilient Communities project, which is currently being implemented by the ODPEM, with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, said the project, which targets 28 communities across Jamaica, aims to use existing mechanisms such as the Local Authorities to help reduce the risk of disasters in communities.
He said Friday’s workshop would give local players a chance to discuss the challenges from their perspective, and also present their suggestions regarding the appropriate framework for delivering disaster management.
He noted that Friday’s meeting will set the stage for further discussions with Parish Disaster Committee members, in a series of regional workshops to be held in this month and November.

Skip to content