JIS News

As part of preparation efforts for the 2009 Hurricane Season, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has sought to improve shelter conditions, having identified 150 priority shelters.
This was noted by ODPEM’s Director General, Ronald Jackson, during a press conference, held at Jamaica House on June 1 to launch Disaster Preparedness Month.
“We have over 150 shelters which we have now deemed priority shelters. We have over 900 shelters, but when we look at the capabilities to resource 900 shelters, we’re just not there. That’s okay, because if you were to do an assessment of many of the countries in the first world, they don’t have all of the resources on hand during any event. It’s not possible in terms of the resources to procure them,” Mr. Jackson explained.
He noted that in order to determine the priority shelters, ODPEM examined data since 2004 to the present, and looked at the shelters that are most used, and the communities that are always affected.
In addition, the Director General informed that efforts to adequately equip shelters have also been strengthened.
“We have managed to garner enough resources to ensure that at least, at minimum, 50 persons reporting to these shelter facilities will have a cot, a blanket, water supply, and the basic necessities, so that they are comfortable in these facilities. In some instances, we will have to augment that, because some communities have 100 people turning out to the shelter and we are well aware of that, and we will be dealing with that,” he said.
In the same vein, Mr. Jackson said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed with the Red Cross to manage these facilities on behalf of the ODPEM. This will entail setting up the facilities; registering persons; and taking information as to their specific circumstances.
Since last year, 100 new volunteers have been trained in search and rescue capability, as well as 350 Shelter Managers. Another 350 persons are to be trained and deployed.
The Director General further informed that ODPEM is also looking at acquiring three ‘quick-erect’ shelters.
“After the event, a lot of persons are able to go home, but there are some persons who can’t go home by virtue of the state of their homes and their communities, but we need the schools to go back into operational use almost immediately after an event. We are looking at acquiring a facility that we can store, but we can erect in a community if we need to, and to move those persons from the schools into these facilities,” Mr. Jackson said.
For this year, the ODPEM has managed to move its shelter capacity from just under 10,000 to between 10,000 and 12,000 persons. Mr. Jackson said that additional shelter kits and equipment will also be sourced through an emergency recovery loan from the World Bank, which is being administered by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
The Director General said that ODPEM is also seeking to have some of its supplies kept in closer proximity to areas that are usually severely affected. The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has pledged a number of its facilities to house these supplies. The ODPEM will be adding five more regional stores to the ones it already has in St. Mary, Manchester and St. James.
Disaster Preparedness Month is being observed under the theme: ‘Disasters are Becoming More Intense…Staying Prepared Makes Common Sense!’
The 2009 Hurricane Season began on June 1 and ends November 30.

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