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JIS News

The Government of Jamaica’s Emergency Response Initiative (ERI), aimed at enhancing the country’s preparation and response capacity in disaster management, was officially launched yesterday (May 29) at the St. Mary High School.
The programme, which is being executed at a cost of $90 million, through the Emergency Recovery Project, involves collaboration between the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
A significant portion of the funds will go towards the mobilisation and training of more than 900 persons in disaster management, infrastructure maintenance and disaster first response. One element of the training component will involve the selection of young persons from secondary schools, the Jamaica Cadet Corps, the National Youth Service, among other groups, who will form a specialised group dubbed ‘Preparedness and Emergency Response Corps’ (PERC). They will provide the first line of response in communities during an emergency, and help to sensitise residents about disaster preparedness and management. They will also assist in shelters.
The first batch of 100 young people to benefit from training, in the areas of search and rescue, incident command, first aid and damage assessment, were presented with certificates of completion by Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding at the launch.
State Minister with responsibility for Local Government Reform in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Robert Montague, in his remarks at the function, commended the Prime Minister, who conceived of the idea for the disaster management programme.
He said further that it was heartening to have the young people equipped with knowledge that they could pass on to others in their communities.
Meanwhile, Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, likened the role of PERC to that of culture agents, noting that their task involved more than just the passing on of information to their respective communities about the importance of being prepared.
“More important than just carrying back the information, is a deeper understanding of the relationship between the population and its environment,” he said, while informing that “the whole business of taking care of the environment will become a focal point of the education system.”
Student Council President at St. Mary High school, Orville White, told JIS News that he was proud to have benefitted from the training.
“This was a very beneficial programme to us all at the school. An overwhelming feeling came over us when we realised that we were the first to be chosen for this programme and we are truly glad because we learnt a lot of things,” he said, while extending thanks to all those who made the programme a reality.
Gettinelle Bonner also a student of St. Mary High, said that the programme had helped her a lot. “I’ve done first aid before but this has brought me further. It has taught me search and rescue and incident command, among other things. I am the only one in my community that has done this and I promise that I will go out in my community and call meetings, and tell the people what I have learnt and teach them what I’ve learnt,” she told JIS News.
The training was conducted by ODPEM and Jamaica Red Cross at St. Mary High School for six days over three weekends.