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JIS News

As the 2013 hurricane season intensifies, Acting Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Richard Thompson, says that the National Disaster Committee (NDC) is in “activation mode” and is ready to respond to any weather system.

Mr. Thompson was speaking to JIS News following a meeting of the NDC at Jamaica House on Wednesday (July 10).

The meeting, convened by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, was to discuss the country’s state-of-readiness for Tropical Storm Chantal, which was later downgraded to a tropical wave.

Mr. Thompson noted that although the tropical wave weakened and moved away from Jamaica, “the various response teams are on standby to respond to other possible weather systems, that are likely to develop and pose a threat to the island.”

The NDC comprises ODPEM, Meteorological Service of Jamaica (Met Office), National Works Agency (NWA), Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and the Jamaica Red Cross

He stated said that Jamaica is adequately prepared for the hurricane season, as OPDEM and its partners agencies have embarked on a number of disaster preparedness activities island-wide.

He informed that as a precautionary measure, ODPEM has also conducted several assessments in the Bog Walk Gorge, looking at the implementation of rock fall management, as a defence mechanism.

In addition, several sensitisation sessions, and mitigation exercises have been undertaken, focusing on earthquake and hurricane preparedness, which include landslide-risk reduction in various vulnerable communities, such as Harbour Heights in Harbour View, St. Andrew.

Mr. Thompson said OPDEM is currently executing a public education campaign, aimed at sensitising persons on how to better prepare for natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

“We are constantly monitoring flood-prone and low-lying areas in St. Thomas, St. Mary, Portland, Kingston and St Andrew, St. Catherine and Clarendon, mainly because these areas are normally affected by tropical systems,” the ODPEM Director General said.

As it relates to relief supplies, he pointed out that the Government is able to respond to 10,000 households, but is working to increase the number to 50,000.

He is however urging the public to plan ahead, in order to mitigate the effects of likely weather systems, which may affect the island.

He added that preparedness is not only the responsibility of ODPEM and its partner agencies and organisations, but that persons should also do their part to protect their lives and property.

“Stock up on medicines, water, batteries, flashlights, and non-perishable food, and other necessities for this active hurricane season. Importantly, be alert, so that if another tropical system surfaces and poses a threat to Jamaica, you are fully prepared,” he urged.

CONTACT: JENEVA GORDON