ODPEM Steps up Education Campaign on Safe Construction Practices


The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has stepped up its public education campaign to inform Jamaicans about the importance of constructing houses and buildings to the right specifications.
This has taken on much significance, as the country is in the middle of the Hurricane season, which runs from June to the end of November.
Director General of the ODPEM, Mr. Ronald Jackson, has recalled the devastation to the local housing stock, caused by Tropical Storm Gustav, which passed over sections of the island one year ago.
“When the dust settled and we were able to get out into the field and to take a count of the effects of Tropical Storm Gustav, we found over 2,000 affected households. Of that number, 400 homes were totally destroyed and required relocation and another 1,500 were classified as being severely affected with significant roof damage and the houses barely habitable,” Mr. Jackson said.
He was speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on August 18, at which he outlined plans for the public education campaign to inform people on safer building practices.
The Director General said that the needs of the 400 households which were completely damaged were addressed by the Tropical Storm Gustav Recovery Fund, launched by Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding and operated by the Ministry of Water and Housing.
The needs of the other householders are currently being addressed by the ODPEM, which has secured funding and assistance from the Department for International Development (DFID), “to facilitate major repairs and assistance to the 1,500 families, mostly from the poorer or low income sectors, whose houses were destroyed,” Mr. Jackson pointed out.
According to the Director General, the ODPEM is currently undertaking a project to repair and retrofit these severely damaged units, using safer building techniques and project material. He said the project is providing informal builders and householders with enhanced knowledge and skills to incorporate hazard resistant roofing and construction standards in self help housing.
“The project is providing communities, householders and artisan builders with an overview of hazard effects on buildings. The project aims to raise awareness and build demand for safer hazard resistant building processes throughout Jamaica,” Mr. Jackson added.
Assistance is being provided by partnering agencies, such as HEART Trust /NTA and the Construction Resource and Development Centre (CRDC), which provide expertise and training on safe construction; and the Social Development Commission (SDC), which provides a link between the ODPEM and leaders in communities islandwide.
“One of the legs on which we operate is disaster resistance and vulnerability; anything that has to do with disaster. The CRDC is involved at both the community level and working with agencies such as the ODPEM,” Executive Director of the CRDC, Ms. Carmen Griffiths said.
She said the CRDC was propelled into that role in 1989 following the passage of Hurricane Gilbert the previous year, which revealed weaknesses in local building practices in an island which had not been hit by a hurricane in the previous 37 years. She said the present programme is not intended to give hand-outs, but to strengthen communities and to teach or remind people of the time honoured and proven disaster resistant building practices.
Manager of the Portmore HEART Academy, Mr. Denworth Finnikin, said the HEAT/NTA welcomed the call from the ODPEM to partner with them on this project.
“We gladly came on board. Construction skills are very critical to eradicating the circumstances that affect the most vulnerable people in our society,” he said.
The project involves the carpenters and other builders moving out into the affected communities to retrofit the 1,500 damaged houses. “This is a tall order but we believe it is possible,” Mr. Finnikin said.

JIS Social