JIS News

In a bid to further improve its disaster management capabilities, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has embarked on a project focussing on the management of natural hazards in coastal towns and cities.
According to Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, the three major areas being targeted are: Savanna-La-Mar, Westmoreland; Black River, St. Elizabeth, and Ocho Rios, St. Ann.
Funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), at a cost of US$1 million, the project is being undertaken by the ODPEM as the country prepares for the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Speaking at a press conference at Jamaica House on Monday (June 1), to launch Disaster Preparedness Month, Mr. Jackson said that the project, expected to last for three years, will also facilitate risk mitigation at the community level.
“The project will produce multi-hazard maps that can be used by the planners in the towns to guide the development of the town,” he said.
He also stated that the project will bring back to the table the revised ODPEM Act, which will address issues such as no build zones; special area precautionary planning; evacuation planning; and the role of civil servants in disaster risk management, among other things.
“We are moving to have it (Act) enforced for the next hurricane season,” he said.
There will be an organisational review of ODPEM, Mr. Jackson said, which is necessary, as new times and new challenges in disaster management meant that the organisation will have to prepare itself to deal with them.
He said the assessment will, over the course of the next year, provide answers for questions such as, whether ODPEM is adequately equipped and properly structured, and if the national disaster framework is ideal and functional?
Additionally, ODPEM has also taken on a three-year project looking at building resilient communities, targeting approximately 75 communities. Already well into a year, the project is being funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) at a cost of $43 million.
Under the project, ODPEM and other relevant agencies will be strengthening partnerships with the communities by engaging residents in training, skills transfer and development plans, so that they can have their own disaster management plans.
“We are going to do some mitigation projects, which will be identified by the communities, done by the communities with technical support…so what we are trying to do now is to find ways and means of encouraging more of this business called mitigation, and we are working with the community persons,” the Director General said.
Disaster Preparedness Month is being observed under the theme: ‘Disasters are Becoming More Intense.Staying Prepared Makes Sense’.
The 2009 Atlantic Hurricane season, which began on June 1, ends on November 30.

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