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Story Highlights

  • The Disaster Risk Management Act, which seeks to strengthen the country’s national disaster preparedness was passed in the Senate on Friday, November 7.
  • The Bill repeals and replaces the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Act of 1993.
  • Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, noted that local disaster managers have been finding it difficult to execute their mandate without strong legislative support for their functions.

The Disaster Risk Management Act, which seeks to strengthen the country’s national disaster preparedness, emergency management and response processes and mechanisms, was passed in the Senate on Friday, November 7.

The Bill repeals and replaces the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Act of 1993.

Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, noted that local disaster managers have been finding it difficult to execute their mandate without strong legislative support for their functions.

“For example, in 2004, residents of Rocky Point and Portland Cottage chose not to heed the warnings about the potential devastating impact of Hurricane Ivan and  this has highlighted the need for institutional and legal changes to Jamaica’s disaster management,” he argued.

The legislation accords recognition to existing organisational structures, such as the National Disaster Committee, Parish Disaster Committees, and Zonal Committees, with their roles and functions clearly established; makes provisions to legally evacuate persons identified as being at risk based on their location; identifies and earmarks high risk areas as especially vulnerable areas; and outlines the necessary steps to be taken in respect of such areas. It also facilitates the establishment of a National Disaster Fund.

For his part, Senator Wensworth Skeffery noted that the Bill seeks to provide support as to how the nation deals with disaster preparedness and management.

“The various clauses in this Bill are timely and will serve to provide a clear structural framework on disaster and risk management,” he said.

He noted, however, that for it to have meaning and for the effects of disasters to be minimised, “we need a shift in attitude among our people in how we treat our environment and in certain cultural practices.”

Senator Norman Grant welcomed the inclusion of drought within the definition of “disasters,” noting that is particularly important to the agricultural sector.

The legislation was passed with eight amendments and approved in the House of Representatives in October.