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Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, has issued instructions that the revision of the country’s building codes and regulations should be fast-tracked.

In a statement to the House of Representatives on October 30, on preliminary estimates of the cost of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy across key sectors,

Mrs. Simpson Miller said the speedy revision “will allow us to prevent persons from building in unsafe areas, and to legislate forced evacuation.”

“I do not believe we should allow people to build on gully banks, up on hills where you could have slippage, and riverbeds, and then call on Government to do something about it, and we do not know how they got the approval to build in those areas. We should legislate to ensure that there are certain areas where no one will be able to put up even a shack, and we are very serious about this,” Mrs. Simpson Miller emphasised.

She noted that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the Ministry of Local Government and other Ministries and agencies are already collaborating on the issue.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the law will, in addition to preventing persons from building in certain areas, make provisions for forced evacuation.

“Sometimes when governments make an appeal (and ask) persons to leave a particular area, they (residents) are waiting until great danger sets in, and then they expect our first responders to respond, not understanding they are putting the lives of other persons in danger. They need to understand when we say there is a threat, move immediately,” she added.

Mrs. Simpson Miller pointed out that the legislative measures will ensure that the country is better prepared in the future for natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

A Bill to establish the Building Act (2011) to facilitate the adoption and efficient application of the National Building Code, was tabled in the House of Representatives last September. The Bill will, among other things, confirm the Bureau of Standards Jamaica as the standards authority with power to specify the version of the international codes that are to be used as the national code and to promulgate application documents in respect of those codes.

As the standards authority, the Bureau will also be empowered to recognise building standards and approve, list or certify building products, construction methods, building components and systems.