JIS News

A three-day workshop organised by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), which began on March 14 in Kingston, is expected to significantly upgrade the preparedness of personnel involved in disaster management in several Caribbean Countries.

The workshop, which is being supported by funding from the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), will examine and iron out kinks in the adoption and implementation of best practice strategies by Caribbean countries.

Deputy Director General of  ODPEM, Richard Thompson, told JIS News that the workshop is aimed at making the participating countries of the region better able to react, deal with and solve disaster management issues when the need arise.

“It’s a sharing and learning process. We look at the emergency operation centre activities, the protocols, policies and at how best we can learn from each other; where there are common practices and differences, where there are grey areas, at gaps and how best we can strengthen them,” he said.

“Disaster management is a moving goal post.  Things are constantly changing, so workshops like these will help personnel to improve on their protocols and management systems,” he told JIS News.

Jamaica, with over 30 years in structured disaster management through the ODPEM, is the ‘focal point’ leader for the North-west group of countries out of the 18-member CDEMA.  That group consists of Belize, the Bahamas, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos islands.                                                                   

Mr. Thompson said Jamaica was chosen as the focal point leader because of its long history and efficiency in dealing with disasters, and its proven track record in operating disaster and emergency centres and its pro-activeness in offering help to other stricken islands befallen by emergencies.

The workshop will familiarise participants with national, regional and international response mechanisms; familiarise operations personnel with CDEMA’s emergency response tools; enhance the capacity of participants to establish, operate and manage information within an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC); and enhance the capacity of participants to develop and execute simulation exercises.

Mr. Thompson noted that critical value is added to these workshops, based on the participants.  “When there are new personnel involved in disaster management you can see the gap in the level of experience and knowledge, so it is good in a workshop setting, for the younger persons and the less experienced territories to grasp knowledge,” he said.

“We [Jamaica] have a number of protocols and operation procedures in place that these younger territories can learn from us.  It doesn’t mean that we cannot learn from them, because there are always new ideas and no one has a monopoly on knowledge.  So, it’s just a sharing of ideas and looking at the protocols that each territory uses to carry out their operations,” he added.

Mr. Thompson emphasised that these disaster workshops are not a waste of time, as revision and practice makes operations personnel more prepared to deal with disasters.


By Roger Hutchinson, JIS Reporter