JIS News

Consultant to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Dr. Barbara Carby, is of the opinion that Jamaicans must be constantly bombarded with the message of disaster mitigation and prevention, even if there is no threat of disaster.
“Disaster risk reduction is a bit like preaching the gospel; every time is good. You really want to keep disaster prevention in the minds of the people. By all means hit it right after (a disaster) when people are receptive but preach it all the time as well,” she said.
Dr. Carby, who is the former Director General of ODPEM, was addressing a JIS Think Tank on Wednesday (Sept. 30) at the agency’s Half-Way-Tree Road office in Kingston.
Noting the value of constant education and sensitisation, she said there will always be people, who will see the value of the message and make disaster mitigation part of their overall planning.
She called on insurance companies to consider lowering the premiums for those people, who use hurricane straps and employ other measures to make their homes more resilient to disasters. “If I have used hurricane straps on my roof, the roof is stronger. Does that translate into a reduction in my premium?” she asked.
In the meantime, the ODPEM is implementing a Natural Hazard Management in Urban Coastal Areas Project to strengthen disaster risk management in towns and cities located in coastal areas.
The programme, which is being funded by the Government of Jamaica and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), has three main components: risk assessment and planning; improving communities’ resilience; and strengthening the institutional capacity of ODPEM.
“We are looking for a proactive agenda from ODPEM to see how we address hazards before they actually come and to complement our response capacity as it now stands,” said Project Manager, Mr. Dale Bent, who also attended the Think Tank.
In addition to providing institutional support to ODPEM, specific objectives of the programme include improving co-ordination among the ODPEM, local governments and communities; and enhancing parish response capabilities.
The risk assessment and planning aspect of the programme includes the production of multi-hazard assessments, hazard specific maps, and a hazard vulnerability survey for households, organisations and critical facilities; and the development of disaster risk management tools to support planning decisions.
In terms of improving communities’ resilience, Mr. Bent said that this will incorporate public education and awareness programmes; outreach preparedness programmes; the production of information materials; training of key local personnel in the areas of damage assessment and shelter management; and the development of community mitigation projects with stakeholder ownership.
The move to strengthen ODPEM’s institutional capacity aims to provide the agency with the technical support to better fulfill its role in advancing disaster preparedness and emergency management measures.
Among initiatives under this heading are a review and update of the national disaster programme and plan, and the development of related policies and actions.
There is also support for the mainstreaming of disaster risk management in different branches of the economy, organisational development, and a review of ODPEM’s structure, its administrative and human resources manuals and procedures, and general support to all issues related to organisational development.
This aspect of the support programme will also see the procurement of computer equipment and software to perform simulation exercises, the development of a staff training programme and staff training activities related to ODPEM’s core responsibilities.

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