JIS News

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is strengthening its preparedness and response capacities in the event of a major earthquake.
Director General of the agency, Ronald Jackson, who was addressing a press conference on (Jan.11) at ODPEM’s Camp Road offices to launch Earthquake Awareness Week, said that the agency has been partnering with a number of international and regional agencies, and “we will be continuing our search and rescue capacity building, which we started two years ago and the training will continue”.
Stating that “we are also currently in discussions with the German Embassy here to carry out canine rescue training,” he explained that “in the event a collapsed structure, the greatest chance for survival is to be able to sense where bodies are located and we are hoping to get that off the ground towards the end of this year.”
The ODPEM is also working to enhance the national capacity to provide shelter and relief support for massive displacement, Mr. Jackson informed.
He told journalists that there are plans to finalise a national building code. “Kingston is already dense and populated in terms of its buildings, some of which may very well have been constructed to the capacity to withstand certain ground acceleration, others may not,” he pointed out.
The Director General indicated that as part of the development approval process, the agency will be developing multi-hazard maps, including that of earthquakes, and providing training in mass casualty.
In relation to tsunamis, Mr. Jackson said that in the event that one occurs, a good communication system must be in place.
“In that regard, we are working with our communication partners and others to see if we can institute a means of texting as a system of early warning. So we are seeking to address a number of the areas,” he noted.
Earthquake Awareness Week is being observed from January 13 to 19 under the theme: ‘For safety sake, be ready for the next earthquake’.
Activities include earthquake drills and presentations, as well as expositions in communities islandwide. The week will commence with a special service at the St. Andrew Parish Church, which has existed since 1655, and has withstood numerous catastrophic events, including earthquakes.
The week of activities are being planned in conjunction with the Parish Councils, the Ministry of Education and the Jamaica Library Service, as well as businesses, civic and community-based organizations.

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