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  • Testing will begin this week on a pilot early warning system to alert disabled persons of impending disaster.
  • The project includes creating a registry of all disabled persons in the target communities, geo-coding this information, and installing communication infrastructure for alerts.
  • The Memorandum of understanding to undertake the project was signed on October 9 at the ODPEM’s offices in New Kingston.

Testing will begin this week on a pilot early warning system to alert disabled persons of impending disaster.

Senior Telecommunications Engineer at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Ruel Corniffe, said that the pilot system, which will be tested in targeted communities in Portmore, St. Catherine, facilitates real-time warning and response to disasters such as hurricanes and flooding for the disabled.

“We have started some of the installation of the system…and by the end of this week, we will be starting the actual test of the system,” he informed.

He was speaking on Wednesday, October 9, at the signing of a Memorandum of understanding to undertake the project, at the ODPEM’s offices in New Kingston. The signatories were ODPEM, PANOS Caribbean, the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA) and Sun City Radio.

Mr. Corniffe informed that the project will utilise special receivers, which will enable disabled persons to access information on alerts and warnings on existing broadcast systems.

It is being funded by the Canada Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund (CCDRMF) at a cost of $75,000, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Executive Director of the CIDA, Gloria Goffe,saidshe is happy to be part of the project, which will address the awareness and communication problems that persons with disability have, as it relates to disaster preparedness and emergency management.

“The signing of this MoU signifies an acknowledgement that persons with disabilities have special needs that are important to their ability to cope during and after a disaster and also their awareness of, where it exists, a pending disaster, and how they are to prepare for such events,” she said.

Also welcoming the initiative, Acting Mayor of Portmore, Councillor Leon Thomas, said he is grateful that the municipality was chosen for the pilot.

“For years, infrastructure improvement and mobilisation have been a challenge to the disabled community in Portmore and we welcome this initiative. We will work with all stakeholders to ensure that this pilot early warning system is monitored and used effectively to ensure the safety of our disabled individuals in Portmore,” he assured.

According to a release from Panos Caribbean, the project includes creating a registry of all the disabled persons in the target communities of Waterford, Gregory Park and Bridgeport, geo-coding of this information, and the installation of communication infrastructure to facilitate alerts.  At least 5,000 persons with disabilities live in the three target communities.

The document further notes that $900,000 is being spent under the pilot project on the retrofitting of the Naggo Head Primary school with ramps, special bathroom facilities and other fittings to accommodate the group during disasters.

In addition, 80 shelter managers and disaster responders in Kingston and Portmore have been trained to deal with persons with disabilities as part of the roll-out.

According to Director of Information and Training, ODPEM, Delmares White, the project will also include strengthening inter-agency communication and systems as well as infrastructural improvements and community mobilisation.

“At the end of this project, we should have a tested and functional pilot early warning system for persons with disabilities that can be replicated at the national level,” she stated.