National Emergency Response Boosted


The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has said that recent events, such as the staging of the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC), have served to enhance the national response mechanism, with improvements made in the training and equipping of emergency teams.
“I am very encouraged by the level of preparedness of our teams,” said Acting Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, at a recent JIS News Think Tank.
The staging of the CWC, he said, “provided us with an opportunity to harmonise the various plans across the various organizations and to test our national plans and mechanisms. It enhanced our coordination and provided an opportunity for extensive training in critical response areas such as search and rescue, medical first response and emergency care and treatment.”
He noted further that ODPEM has benefited from extensive earthquake and hurricane preparedness activities. “These activities really allowed us to achieve legacies. Contrary to popular beliefs, our preparedness activities never stop. As one hurricane season ends preparation begins for the next,” he said, noting that this is in keeping with the organization’s mandate of “making disaster management a way of life.” In the meantime, with forecasts of an active 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, Mr. Jackson said that ODPEM, in collaboration with partner agencies such as the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Jamaica Red Cross Society, have targeted individuals, communities, schools and other sectors, in an effort to make them more proactive in the event of a natural disaster.
He mentioned that focus will be placed on flood-prone areas such as Bull Bay in Portland and Aenon Town in Clarendon, while special attention will be given to poor communities, people with special needs and the elderly, to ensure that they receive the best possible care in the event of a disaster.
According to Mr. Jackson, “over the last 26 years, we have pursued a process of building the knowledge-base at the community level (and) focused on reducing the level of vulnerability, which they face”. He stated that “the preparedness measures undertaken by the organisation in building the capacity at the local level have begun to bear fruit, as we have seen a reduction in some of the indicators, such as the number of people who die and are displaced.” He cited Portmore in St. Catherine, as one of the communities with an evacuation plan that will be enforced if necessary.
For this hurricane season, ODPEM is focusing efforts on equipping the communications component within the organization by ensuring that there is an efficient, speedy response and quick recovery from incidents.
ODPEM, Mr. Jackson informed, has acquired three satellite phones, trunked radio systems that do not necessarily require a line of connectivity and is putting in repeater sites across the country. “We will be utilizing a number of information communication technologies to aid our decision-making processes,” he noted.
Mr. Jackson expressed confidence that through proper management of resources, the agency will be able to respond to the needs of citizens in the event of a disaster. In addition, ODPEM has the support of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Defence Force, among other ministries and agencies of government, and will utilize its volunteer corps extensively, during the season.
The ODPEM continues to inform the public of the role it plays in the nation’s preparation for disasters and has dubbed the month of June Disaster Preparedness Month under the theme: ‘Disaster Preparedness: From Awareness to Action.’
“We urge that the public take the necessary actions to continue to prepare themselves as we go into the season. Let us work together and work with the agencies to ensure that we can keep our countrymen safe during the season,” Mr. Jackson implored.

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