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The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), is urging residents of Old Harbour Bay in St. Catherine, to devise family disaster plans, so as to reduce the impact of a hurricane or other disasters.
“How best you survive an event, depends on how prepared you are as a person and a family,” Regional Co-ordinator, ODPEM, Sophia Mitchell, told residents, while addressing a community forum, held on August 18, at the Old Harbour Bay Primary School.
Miss Mitchell told them to identify and discuss the types of hazards that could affect their family, and to be aware of their home’s vulnerability to storm surges, flooding or an earthquake.
She encouraged the residents to find answers to some basic questions in preparing the plan. These include: “Where will I evacuate to? Where do I consider higher ground? Where is the shelter? Where is it that I am going to move to? Do I have a doctor’s number or a nurse or someone who can provide first aid in the event that something happens?” she said.
The Regional Co-ordinator, said that while relief workers and state agencies would be on the scene after a disaster, it was important for persons to prepare in advance and to work together to cope with a disaster.
Miss Mitchell pointed out that Old Harbour Bay, a fishing village located near the seashore, is vulnerable to flooding and storm surges associated with hurricanes. She noted that during Hurricane Ivan, the storm surge brought water 240 metres inland, while it was 573 metres for Hurricane Dean. Some 20 wooden houses were destroyed during Ivan and 140 during Dean.
She reminded the residents “to act”, whenever they are notified to evacuate their homes by state agencies. “Let us act, let us not just listen and hear, let us act, because it is the action that is going to save lives,” she said.
The meeting was organised by the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), in collaboration with the ODPEM and the Old Harbour Bay Community Development Association. It was held to highlight the need for hurricane preparedness and to hear concerns and suggestions from citizens.
Other speakers were: Sergeant Howard Perry of the Old Harbour Bay Police Station; Environmentalist, Peter Espeut, and Senior Public Health Inspector, St. Catherine, Simeon Bromfield.
Also attending the meeting were the Chairperson, Old Harbour Bay Community Development Association, Murelda Folkes and Regional Manager, Regional Services Department, JIS, Shelly-Ann Harris.