Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, says countries in the region can help with building each other’s disaster management capabilities.
“More and more, we are recognising that we can share the capacities within our various member states towards the development of each other,” Mr. Jackson said, as he addressed the closing ceremony for the Orientation of Operations Personnel workshop, held at the offices of ODPEM, in Kingston, on March 16.
He said it was through events such as the regional workshop that, “we are bringing to bear the capacities which exist, creating synergies, forging strong partnerships, thereby forging a strong sub-region and ultimately a strong Caribbean regional organisation in the true spirit of the comprehensive disaster management framework."
The three-day workshop, which was hosted by ODPEM, with funding support from the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), sought to examine and address issues in relation to the adoption and implementation of disaster management best practice strategies by Caribbean countries.
Senior Director, Hazard Mitigation, Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Philbert Brown, said the Government is committed to supporting the process of regional disaster mitigation and was encouraged by the breadth of discussions and level of participation in the workshop.
“We believe that if we work together, we can make great inroads into the security of our people and the mitigation of the hazards that affect us,” he said.
Head of the EU Delegation to Jamaica, Helen Jenkinson, who said the workshop provided participants with the opportunity to exchange experiences, and to learn from past disasters, expressed the view that disaster management and prevention need to be “mainstreamed into everything we do in this region."
“There is no aspect really, from building a hospital to schools, where the possibility of disaster and damage and minimising the damage does not play a role,” she added.
Executive Director, CDEMA, Jeremy Collymore, said the workshop represented the beginning of a new culture of engagement and “unfolding another element of our strategic re-articulation in building regional capacity in a sustained way."
He encouraged the participants that when they return to their respective countries, to “seek to intrude yourself into your system to address some of the issues that you have identified here (at the workshop).”
Mr. Collymore further expressed the hope that by early June, “there is something in your system that you can say has benefited from your participation in the workshop."
The workshop, which commenced on March 14, was aimed at making the participating countries of the region better able to react, deal with and solve disaster management issues when the need arises.
It also sought to familiarise participants with national, regional and international response mechanisms; familiarise operations personnel with CDEMA’s emergency response tools; enhance the capacity of participants to establish, operate and manage information within an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC); and enhance the capacity of participants to develop and execute simulation exercises.
Jamaica, with over 30 years in structured disaster management through the ODPEM, is the ‘focal point’ leader for the North-west group of countries out of the 18-member CDEMA. That group consists of Belize, the Bahamas, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos islands.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter