The Full Story
The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is taking steps to educate and increase public awareness about lightning as a hazard, causing the deaths of more than 2,000 persons globally every year while injuring thousands of others.
Lightning is a naturally occurring phenomenon of high-energy electrical discharge between the cloud and the ground or within the cloud, accompanied by a bright flash and typically thunder.
Acting Director General at ODPEM, Richard Thompson, while noting that lightning is a “low-frequency hazard”, said that more attention needs to be placed on the phenomenon, which has a lot of impact on people.
“For us in Jamaica, between about 2001 and 2021, we have seen roughly 18 persons dying from lightning impact and probably another 36 persons being injured,” he pointed out.
Mr. Thompson was speaking at the inaugural Lightning Talks Forum and Panel Discussion on Wednesday (September 13) at Hotel Four Seasons in St. Andrew.
The forum featured presentations from various public- and private-sector entities, including the Meteorological Service, Bureau of Standards Jamaica, Port Authority of Jamaica, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Jamaica Public Service Company Limited, Digicel and Flow.
In addition to increasing awareness, the discussion session sought to implement plans to mitigate the impact of lightning at the national, local, sector and community levels.
Mr. Thompson noted that the Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, under whose portfolio the ODPEM falls, has highlighted the need to focus on areas that affect the population but are low in occurrence.
“So, we thought it best to develop a programme in conjunction with the [Meteorological Service] around the phenomenon of lightning and the impact that it has on our country and the various industries,” he said.
Mr. Thompson further noted that ODPEM has long been at the forefront in terms of looking at all hazards, placing emphasis on how to respond to them as well as developing preparedness and mitigation initiatives.
“The aim – as it relates to our All-Hazards Programme – is to educate our public, educate our partners and to ensure that, ultimately, the work that we are doing collectively, we are impacting our people and we are saving lives and protecting our economy,” he said.