JIS News

Executive Director of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, has recalled the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Gustav last year, as his organisation promotes safe housing construction.
“When the dust settled and we were able to get out into the field and to take account of the effects of Tropical Storm Gustav, we found over 2,000 affected households. Of that number, 400 homes were destroyed and required relocation and another 1,500 were classified as being severely affected, with significant roof damage and the houses barely habitable,” Mr. Jackson said.
The ODPEM head was speaking at a JIS Think Tank in Kingston Tuesday (August 18), at which he outlined plans for a public education campaign to inform people on safer building practices.
He explained that the needs of the 400 households which were destroyed were addressed by the Tropical Storm Gustav Recovery Fund, launched by Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding and operated by the Ministry of Water and Housing.
The needs of the other householders are currently being addressed by ODPEM, which has secured funding and assistance from the Department for International Development (DFID) to facilitate major repairs and assistance to 1,500 families, mostly from poorer or low income sectors, whose houses were destroyed.
ODPEM is currently undertaking a project to repair and retrofit the severely damaged units, using safer building techniques and project material, according to Mr. Jackson. He said the project is providing informal builders and householders with enhanced knowledge and skills, to incorporate hazard resistant roofing and construction standards in self help housing.
“The project is providing communities, householders and artisan builders with an overview of hazard effects on buildings. The project aims to raise awareness and build demand for safer hazard resistant building processes throughout Jamaica,” Mr. Jackson added.
Assistance is being provided by partnering agencies such as HEART/NTA and the Construction Resource and Development Centre (CRDC), which provide expertise and training on safe construction, and the Social Development Commission (SDC), which provides a link between the ODPEM and leaders in communities, islandwide.
“One of the legs on which we operate is disaster resistance and vulnerability; anything that has to do with disaster. The CRDC is involved at both the community level and working with agencies such as ODPEM,” said Executive Director of the CRDC, Carmen Griffiths.
She said the CRDC was propelled into that role in 1989 following the devastating passage of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, which revealed weaknesses in local building practices in a country which had not been hit by a hurricane in the previous 37 years. She said the present programme is not intended to give hand-outs, but to strengthen communities and to teach, or remind people of time honoured and proven disaster resistant building practices.
Manager of the Portmore HEART Academy, Denworth Finnikin, said HEART/NTA welcomed the call from the ODPEM for partnership in this project.
“We gladly came on board. Construction skills are very critical to eradicating the circumstances that affect the most vulnerable people in our society,” he said.
The project involves carpenters and other builders moving out into the affected communities to retrofit the 1,500 damaged houses he added.
“This is a tall, order but we believe it is possible,” he commented.

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