JIS News

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is urging communities to engage in disaster planning and assessment as the island braces for another hurricane season.
The month of June is being observed as Disaster Preparedness Month and Director of Information and Training at the ODPEM, Nadine Newsome has informed JIS News that communities should come together and begin to conduct assessment of hazards that could pose threats during a hurricane or emergency event.
“Many losses during disaster events could be avoided, if communities were effectively prepared through planning for dealing with that disaster or emergency event,” Miss Newsome explained.
The ODPEM is encouraging communities to design action plans geared towards protecting family and property during disasters. “It must be a written plan which outlines the procedure for the protection of the family and property during a disaster event. The plan should also include steps to secure sources of income such as livestock, crops or business place,” the Information Director explained.
Additionally residents of flood prone communities are being advised to develop emergency programmes, which entail actions to be taken before, during and after a disaster event.
Miss Newsome explained that communities could use citizens groups or community meetings to discuss disaster management and the designing of the necessary action plans to deal with the protection against hazards.
She further informed, “residents should be aware of the parish disaster committee or coordinator responsible for their communities. They operate out of the parish council offices and are responsible for organizing and directing local disaster preparedness and relief operations in the event of disasters”.
Additionally parish disaster coordinators work in collaboration with other voluntary organizations such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and government organizations such as the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the police during disasters.
Miss Newsome noted that planning for each step of a disaster was critical to survival and that communities should plan stages such as early evacuation particularly in flood prone communities or areas. These communities she added, should organize early warning flood response teams who would watch water levels during heavy periods of rainfall and alert the communities as to when to evacuate.
Public education is also critical to preventing extensive damage and losses during disaster events and Miss Newsome explained that “identification of a network of people, institutions and organizations that could help a particular community in dealing with their vulnerabilities is also important and getting these persons to come into the communities and educate is very important”.
The month is being observed under the theme ‘Learning from Today’s Hazards to Prevent Tomorrow’s Disaster’ and the ODPEM is advising Jamaicans to identify from their experiences all the hazards to which they may be vulnerable and note all the lessons learnt from Hurricane Ivan last year.