JIS News

The Social Development Commission (SDC) is to set up disaster committees in the Port Morant and Yallahs development areas of St. Thomas.
A similar committee, the Prospect Disaster Management Committee, has been established in the Morant Bay development area in the parish.
Parish Manager for the SDC, Luther Cummings, told JIS News that the committees are being set up to deal with pre-disaster planning and post-disaster assessments in respective communities, working in collaboration with other organizations, such as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the Red Cross, the Women Resource Outreach Centre and the Construction Resource Development Centre.
“These committees will deal specifically with disaster management and report to the community development committee in that community, so that all matters from the community level would eventually reach the parish committees, ” Mr. Cummings said, adding that the representatives would meet regularly to discuss and make plans, in terms of disaster, for the entire development area.
On the formation of the committee in the Morant Bay area, he said 16 disaster representatives were chosen by residents from the 16 communities in the development area.
“They were introduced to some degree of disaster management training and were mandated to go back to their communities to institute this training and to set up disaster committees in each community,” he pointed out.
Mr. Cummings noted that committee representatives would be targeting shelter managers and other resource persons in their communities, such as retired teachers, police officers and soldiers to sit on these disaster committees.
When the disaster committees are fully established, the members would be in a better position to help persons before and after a disaster. Mr. Cummings said that persons would receive training in securing buildings, how to make proper assessments, and how to identify at-risk areas and vulnerable persons in their communities.
“The persons who are more prone to disasters, living on the river banks in gullies, would be removed and so, we would cut down on the number of deaths and damage that might take place during a disaster,” he noted. After a disaster, he said, committee members would begin the assessment programme, even before the arrival of the ODPEM, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and other organizations.
The Parish Manager said the committees would be established through the support of the ODPEM, the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and the Red Cross.
“We seek funding from organizations such as the ODPEM, the Red Cross, the JSIF and other funding agencies to assist us mainly in the training programme, since that is very vital to the success of the project,” he said.
Mr. Cummings stressed that the project would only be successful if persons are willing to volunteer their services free of cost.
“We are hoping that the level of commitment will be improved, so that the process could be better managed,” he said, noting that sometimes, shelter managers are not available during disasters, because “they are actively looking about their own welfare.”

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