JIS News

As the hurricane season approaches, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is seeking to develop evacuation plans for flood prone and low-lying communities in St. Catherine.
Formal consultations towards this process will start within this month, informed Omar Afflick, ODPEM Regional Coordinator.
He told JIS News that plans would be developed for specific communities such as Bushy Park, Old Harbour, Nightingale Grove and Heartlands, which were becoming “high risk due to the recurrence of floods.”
In those areas, he pointed out, persons were being trapped during heavy rains. “We always have to have contingencies and an evacuation plan is such a contingency,” he noted.
Mr. Afflick said that there was also need for greater public education so that citizens could appreciate “the warnings, alerts and move faster.”He mentioned the Old Harbour Bay community with some 6,000 persons, where a “significant amount of persons were affected by storm surges and floods during Hurricane Ivan last September”.
According to Mr. Afflick, the evacuation plans would be developed in collaboration with residents from the communities as well as response and support agencies, which would manage the evacuation process.
“We have to work along with the communities. They will advise us of the safe routes out and the different characteristics of the communities, possible shelter areas and other resources that might be available within the community; probably a tractor, truck, bus, whatever it is, to support the evacuation,” he pointed out.
Before persons are evacuated, he said, a number of issues would have to be examined, including the location and availability of shelters, traffic management to avoid traffic congestion and the welfare of evacuees at shelters.
“So an evacuation plan is not just telling persons to be in a particular area. If you’re ordering an evacuation and it is mandatory, you have to make some provision for persons,” he emphasized.
Mr. Afflick pointed out that the plan would be included in the Parish Disaster Plan, which was being reviewed by response agencies and members of the St. Catherine Parish Council Disaster Committee.
The Regional Coordinator said consultations for development of the evacuation plans would begin immediately after the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) training exercises, which were scheduled for completion in two weeks. The EOC is the facility for managing operations and coordination of resources during emergencies in the parish.
“Currently, the parish plan is being reviewed by respective agencies and we are expecting some input as regards to evacuation when they submit their reviews,” Mr. Afflick said.

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