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KINGSTON — Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, has said that the agency is shifting major focus from preparedness to risk reduction, as a means of building disaster resilient communities.

“We have recognised that we have to change the focus, we’ve recognised that we have to shift the dialogue from this matter of ‘are we prepared for a hurricane or an earth quake or a tsunami.’ (This is) very important to discuss, but I think what we need to do, as a people, is to stop chasing an arbitrary figure of preparedness,” he said.

Mr. Jackson was speaking at a press conference yesterday, at ODPEM, Haining Road, New Kingston to discuss plans for Disaster Preparedness Month.

He noted that very limited resources can no longer be used to purchase relief supplies for large numbers of persons residing in disaster prone communities, as this is not sustainable. The focus now has to be on reducing the number of persons in vulnerable situations.

Mr. Jackson said that ODPEM has been working to foster sustainable partnerships in disaster mitigation at the agency level and, more importantly, at the community and parish level. He noted that the agency has been collaborating with local authorities to manage the disaster response process and build their capacity.

“We need to create the social demand for change. That’s what we’re about. What we have been doing with our key partner agencies, in relation to this building of disaster resilient communities, is to educate, inform, build capacity to change attitudes, ultimately, to change the culture and to have a culture of safety,” he said.

He added that the agency has been focusing on risk reduction in 310 communities, ranked as highly vulnerable to natural disasters.

“Some of these communities have been targeted by us in the last three years and we’re in the final run of that three-year targeting. Again, moving away from this concept that we look at preparedness as something thatwe do in a given year, we have been programming strategically for three years, to try and address the issue of vulnerability and risk, as well as building capacity at the community level,” the Director General said.

“Our focus with these communities, has been to develop emergency response plans, form emergency teams within the communities and to identify and implement community mitigation projects,” he added

Mr. Jackson said that the overall goal in the medium term is that all 310 communities become resilient and work with the local authorities and central government, in a networked system, to ensure that there are sustainable long term prevention measures implemented for all hazards.

June 1 marks the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season and is being observed in Jamaica as Disaster Preparedness Month, under the theme: ‘Building Disaster Resilience…Our First Line of Defence’.

 

By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter

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