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    Starting this year, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) will be observing May as Hurricane Preparedness Month.
    The initiative, which will be an annual feature on ODPEM’s calendar, aims to heighten national awareness of the need for adequate preparations, by individuals, to effectively deal with dislocations resulting from the onset of severe weather during the six-month North Atlantic hurricane season, June 1- November 30.
    Mobile operator, Digicel, has partnered with ODPEM to stage a series of activities in observance of Hurricane Preparedness Month, details of which were unveiled during a media launch at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on Thursday (April 30).
    The company’s involvement marks the second consecutive year that they are collaborating with ODPEM, to stage activities aimed at assisting individuals in reducing the risks associated with hurricanes.
    The activities, which will actually span the months of May and June, include: a hurricane seminar at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, on May 8; and road shows in St. Thomas, St. James, Clarendon, and St. Thomas, on May 30, and June 13, 20, and 27 respectively.
    The seminar is expected to bring together primary response agencies, as well as the heads of Regional Health Authorities, community leaders and other social development entities. Representatives of institutions, such as children’s homes and homes for the elderly, which are vulnerable to natural disasters, will also be involved.
    Speaking at the launch, Chief Executive Officer of Digicel Jamaica, Mark Linehan, said that the firm, along with its partners, will also visit damage prone communities in St. Thomas, St. James, Clarendon, and St. Catherine, to assist residents with preparatory tips and guidelines on safeguard measures that should be implemented.
    Deputy Director of ODPEM, Richard Thompson, noted that, while Jamaica is no stranger to the onset of hurricanes, the message of preparedness needs to be constantly emphasised, pointing to the challenges which the agency invariably faces in executing its disaster preparedness tasks.
    He said, however, that the efforts were made easier by the input of a range of stakeholders, particularly from the private sector.
    “Our call for greater commitment to national development issues, have not gone unanswered, as witnessed by our second year of partnering with Digicel, a committed partner to disaster preparedness in Jamaica,” he said.
    “We are, therefore, proud to, once again, partner with Digicel in this major public education initiative. The partnership also galvanises ODPEM’s thrust to engage the private sector in our risk reduction programme, which ensures that measures are put in place to limit or avoid the effects of disaster on our country,” Mr. Thompson said.

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