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Residents of 10 communities in St. Catherine, who have been trained in emergency management, were on December 20 presented with emergency radios to enhance their response during times of disaster.

A total of 20 radios, valued at $474,000 (US$5,260), were handed over to representatives of the communities at a function held at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management’s (ODPEM) Haining Road headquarters, with each community receiving two devices.

The training and equipment are part of collaborative project between ODPEM, HelpAge International and Abacus for Communities, which also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at today’s event.

Under the project, 119 residents from Browns Hall, Content, Giblatore, Gregory Park, Princessfield, Riversdale, Rivoli, Springvale, Thompson Pen and Waterford, received practical and theoretical training in Basic Emergency Telecommunications.

Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, stated that the business of communication is critical in facilitating coordinated response to emergencies.

He noted that when disaster happens, the first responders are the people from the community and they need to be connected to safety operatives.

“Through information, we are able to reduce the window for responding to consequences, through information, we are able to begin the process of early recovery and relief operations, through information we have a better awareness of what is happening in the country and we can plan and deal with the challenges and minimize chaos,” he stated.

Regional Director of HelpAge International, Jeff James, explained that the Basic Emergency Telecommunications (level 1) training was one component of a project implemented 18 months ago to reduce disaster risks and minimize the vulnerabilities experienced by older persons, children and persons with disabilities across the 10 St. Catherine communities.

He noted that the provision of emergency radio service was invaluable, and would provide a channel of communication for residents in vulnerable communities with both the parish and national disaster management offices.

“This initiative is one which HelpAge International strongly believes should be replicated in other communities,” Mr. James stated.

Senior Director of Hazard Mitigation in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development Minister, Philbert Brown, speaking on behalf of Minister Noel Arscott,lauded the provision of the radio under the programme, noting that communication is one of the major needs in an emergency.

Rivoli resident, Clive Robinson, who benefitted from the training, said he was happy to participate. “I have received training and it did a lot for me, namely, to serve my community and if possible, other communities as well. Having the radio is something very good because it might be our only means of communication when we need to communicate,” he stated.

Under the MOU signed among the parties, Abacus for Communities, through the Volunteer Coordinator in the ODPEM, will provide research services in the area of community level risks assessment; recruit community leaders; provide support for the sustainability of the Emergency Affiliate Radio Services (EARS); train persons in community disaster risk reduction and proposal writing; and work to develop fundraising initiatives.