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KINGSTON — Jamaica's disaster preparedness and emergency management mechanisms are expected to be ready to deal with any eventuality arising during the 2011 Tropical Atlantic Hurricane Season, which begins on June 1.

This follows a series of activities which the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has undertaken since last year, aimed at strengthening the capacity of the nation to effectively deal with the impact of disasters, particularly storms and hurricanes.

This is welcomed news, in light of the National Metrological Service’s projection that the 2011 Hurricane Season will be an active one.

Speaking at a media briefing hosted by ODPEM at their Haining Road, New Kingston office on Thursday April 28, Acting Meteorological Service Director, Jeffrey Spooner, said that about 16 named storms are expected to be formed of which, at least, five are expected to develop into major hurricanes.

Outlining the rationale for this projection, Mr. Spooner said that the sea surface in Tropical and sub-Tropical Atlantic experienced “warmer than normal” temperatures, between January and March. This provides “energy” for cyclone development, he said.

He added that the La Niña phenomenon is expected to move into a “neutral place in and around the heart of the hurricane season”. Thereafter, he said there is no certainty about what will happen.La Niña conditions recur every few years, and can persist for as long as two years.

Speaking at the briefing, ODPEM’s Director General, Ronald Jackson, said evaluation of the progress made in the nation’s state of disaster preparedness, over the past few months, showed both successes and shortcomings. He pointed out, however, that the level of preparedness is contingent on the priorities established from individual to national levels.

Activities which Mr. Jackson said ODPEM spearheaded included working with some 55 communities to improve their coordination and readiness, by training relevant stakeholders in the processes of disaster response and plan development. Additionally, he said, the agency worked with them to identify mitigation projects, at the community level, which can reduce the impact of cyclones

He said all of the projects are in the gestation period, but ODPEM intends to complete them, way ahead of the middle of the next hurricane season.

With the start of the 2011 hurricane season just over a month away, he underscored the need for preparedness at all levels of the society.

“We (ODPEM) are urging everyone to review plans at the individual and household level. We understand that persons have to work, according to their pockets, but we encourage you to start to review, to put plans and protocols in place at the business level and the sector level,” he said.

Mr. Jackson warned that if individuals do not prepare, then there is no much that ODPEM or the local authorities could do, beyond the resources that are available.

“So we need to take it seriously,” he concluded.

 

By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter