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KINGSTON — The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) will be conducting a National Simulation Exercise (NaSIMEX) from July 19 to 21, to test Jamaica's preparedness for a major disaster or emergency.

Being undertaken at a cost of $2.1 million through funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the exercise will examine preparedness and readiness to respond to a category three hurricane at the parish and national levels.

It will involve technical input from the Ministry of Health, Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Jamaica Defence Force (JCF), and community, non-government and private sector stakeholders.

Director General for ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, addressing a press conference on July 14, at his New Kingston offices, said the exercise will be “very rigorous."

He informed that ODPEM has been working with some 60 communities across the island over the past three years in building capacity and developing community disaster management plans, and the exercise provides an opportunity to assess the plans and the community groups established.

“We are going to be going across the entire island with this exercise and we are expecting to operate it via the Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey segmentation of the island. We are going to…be moving resources into position and testing our response time as to how we deploy those resources, and how we utilise those resources for effectiveness given the existing challenges that we see on the ground,” he informed.

Also during the three-day event, the National Emergency Operations Centre, Parish Emergency Operations Centres and a minimum of four Community Emergency Response Teams in each county will be activated for simulated response for a category three hurricane.

Turning to the expected outcomes, Mr. Jackson said it is hoped that the exercise will facilitate the full testing of the emergency response call-out standard operating procedure, where all agencies and communities are alerted about an impending event.

“We are hoping to raise the level of awareness of the roles of our critical response agencies…we are hoping to also facilitate collaboration among members of the national and parish and multi-agency response teams, and identify available resources at national and parish levels that can be accessed to draw on to deal with any challenges we may experience during (a major) event,” he noted further.

Mr. Jackson said it is also expected that the effectiveness of communication and co-ordination between the incident command site (first responders) and the various emergency operations centres will be examined.

“We will also be mobilising the damage assessment teams that have to go out into the field after an event to collect data to map the extent of the damage and to provide this to all of the various stakeholders who need to have a sense of what is happening on the ground,” he noted further.

He informed that ODPEM is in the process of doing a full scale review of the national disaster management plan, in particular, the hurricane sub-plan, adding that the exercise is going to “feed into that overall review of the plan."

Minister of Housing, Environment and Water, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, commended ODPEM for initiating the exercise and the various agencies and bodies, which will be offering support.

He noted that the exercise is critical to the nation’s preparation for the hurricane season.

 “The kind of simulation exercise being undertaken is to prepare the communities for disaster. I hope (it) will help to prepare our communities that are at-risk, but of course, before preparing them, part of what we have to do as a country, is to begin to avoid building in areas of greatest risk,” he stated.

 

By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter