JIS News

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), has outlined a number of plans to be pursued in the 2006/07 fiscal year, in continuance of its core programmes, towards the reduction of loss of life and property during disasters.
According to a Performance Report recently tabled in the House of Representatives by the Minister of Local Government and Environment, Dean Peart, several technological components will be added to the agency’s capacity to this end.
“A number of zonal communities were formed, several simulation exercises were conducted, new shelters were identified for vulnerable communities and training and sensitisation sessions were hosted,” the document stated.
The agency is now in dialogue with the global virtual services provider IBM Corporation for the installation of a video conferencing and enhanced message handling system.
Planning Analyst at ODPEM, Michelle Edwards told JIS News that these systems, when implemented would effect greater and more efficient “in house communication and operations” The agency also participated in the finalization of the National Hazard Mitigation policy.
According to the report ODPEM also intends to integrate the use of Geographical Information Systems in response to emergencies, damage assessments and the processing of subdivision applications. This will also be important in the hazard mapping process, as well as flood and landslide mitigation planning. The report also stated that a proposal is now before Cabinet for the implementation of a Performance Management Approval System.
On the matter of training, which the agency initiated or assisted in, the report outlined that in 2006, the first Swift River Rescue team in Jamaica was trained and officers of ODPEM participated in more than 20 regional and international meetings addressing disaster related issues. Also, some 1,800 persons were trained in Shelter Management, 1,500 of which were National Youth Service participants.
Furthermore, the agency facilitated a seminar for private sector entities on the use of solar energy in disasters. Presently, there are ongoing community sensitisation meetings, targeting some 1 million persons.
The report projects that in the 2006/2007 fiscal year, the agency will be involved in training school teachers and community representatives in hazard mapping as a part of the United Nations Children’s Fund schools project.