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As the Atlantic Hurricane Season approaches, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the local authorities, are putting measures in place to ensure that the country is ready for any of the 18 systems, which have so far been forecasted.

Acting Director General of the ODPEM, Richard Thompson, said the measures include ongoing interventions in a number of selected communities, inclusive of first aid, shelter management, search and rescue, disaster awareness, and initial damage assessment.

[RELATED: Jamaicans Urged to Plan for Hurricane Season]

In addition, 44 micro mitigation projects have been carried out, and eight community response teams trained, while training is ongoing in 12 others.

Mr. Thompson was speaking on Wednesday, May 1, at the launch of Hurricane and Disaster Preparedness Month 2013, at the agency’s New Kingston offices, under the theme: ‘Plan for Disaster in Advance, Give Yourself a Fighting Chance’.

He further informed that a number of plans have been revised, including the national chemical response protocol; the national damage assessment plan; the national welfare plan; the national oil spill plan; and the national emergency telecommunication plan.

Through collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Southern Command, training has been conducted in search and rescue under emergency operations and early warning initiatives. Functional exercises have been undertaken, with participation from the airport authority, and parish disaster coordinators.

“We have built a national emergency telecommunication architecture…(and) have designed concept and structure for an emergency affiliated radio service,” Mr. Thompson told the press conference, adding that a mass notification system has also been designed for the public and ODPEM’s partner agencies.

As it relates to warehousing and post-positioning, ODPEM now has a western regional warehouse in Montpelier, St. James, and has carried out repairs to a number of small parish facilities.

“That gives us capabilities to preposition very early supplies in the parish, so we can respond very effectively,” Mr. Thompson said.

State Minister for Local Government and Community Development, Colin Fagan, said because of the key preliminary steps, which had been taken by the local authorities and ODPEM, through the National Disaster Committee, led by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, the country had fared much better than some parts of the United States.

Mr. Fagan pointed out that in 2010, the combined effects of prolonged rains, hurricanes and tropical storms had resulted in damage of more than $90 billion.

“Therefore, as we prepare to give ourselves that fighting chance, I urge us all to take seriously, the messages, information, and guidance from ODPEM during this period,” he said, while also urging the local authorities to play their role in informing and guiding the various communities.

Meanwhile, Mr. Thompson urged Jamaicans to plan ahead in order to mitigate the effects of any weather systems, which may affect the island.

He said 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 families.

By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter