JIS News

Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, has said that his organisation has spent some $98 million on project-based interventions in preparing the nation for this year’s hurricane season.
He noted that this involved the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded Natural Hazard Management programme in urban, coastal areas to develop model community disaster plans with local authorities.
“Out of that, the local authorities will benefit from multi-hazard plans that will allow them to make effective decisions in terms of the sighting of development infrastructure and how to treat with disasters going forward as well as the development of model community development plans,” he said.
He was speaking at a press conference held Tuesday (June 1) at ODPEM’s headquarters in Kingston, as the agency kick started activities for Disaster Preparedness Month, under the theme: ‘Disaster Preparedness.Be in the Know don’t just go with the Flow!’. The event came on the heels of the start of the hurricane season on June 1.
He said ODPEM worked extensively at attacking the underlying drivers of risk in communities affected by Tropical Storm Gustav. In so doing, ODPEM formed, what it called the safe housing project, involving the repair of over 1,100 roofs, as well as imparting to artisans and builders practices that are desirable in designing, fitting and retrofitting homes and roofs.
Mr. Jackson noted that a robust public education campaign has also been undertaken, to heighten public awareness as well as provide critical information in reducing the vulnerability of the homes, schools and businesses.
The Director General also said that ODPEM has also been partnering with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to establish disaster management plans in institutions that cater to special needs children.
Mr. Jackson said that there is a need to invest in disaster risk mitigation programmes, adding that investment have been placed in the telecommunications infrastructure, so that early warning information may be transmitted while keeping the links of communication open.
“We have also put in 10 of our local authorities, telecommunications equipment that will allow them to also communicate with key persons on the ground,” he added.
Mr. Jackson said that the focus needs to be shifted from that of response and relief, to a more comprehensive approach highlighted by investment in risk mitigation which has been the focus of the ODPEM over the years.
He noted that all the efforts of the agency have been focusing on addressing and attacking the underlying drivers of risks, through long-term programmes and initiatives, adding that the recovery methods are also aimed at reducing vulnerability of persons who have been impacted by disasters.
The series of activities for the month started with a National Church Service on May 30 at the Church on the Rock, Kingston 8. Other activities include: Disaster Preparedness Day in Schools and Disaster Preparedness Cultural Exchange on Friday, June 4; ODPEM/Jamaica Disaster Preparedness Month Supplement on Monday, June 7; and ODPEM/Gleaner Company Disaster Preparedness Month Supplement on Tuesday, June 8.
The activities culminate on June 26, with the Annual Disaster Preparedness Expo at the Michi Super Centre located on Washington Boulevard from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 26.

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