JIS News

The St. Catherine Parish Disaster Committee has activated its emergency operating centre in preparation for the effects of severe weather conditions expected from Tropical Storm Gustav.
Parish Disaster Coordinator, at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Patricia Lewis, told JIS News that a meeting, convened by Chairman of the Committee and Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, was held yesterday (August 26) with Councillors and representatives of the relevant state agencies. She said the meeting was held to establish the Committee’s state of readiness and to ensure that precautionary measures are taken to minimise the impact of the storm.
Miss Lewis said the Committee will continue to monitor weather conditions and “as it deteriorates we will intensify our efforts.”
“The shelter managers are on alert. They have contacted their various key keyholders, putting last minute preparations in place, and as the ODPEM indicated they will be propositioning relief items to these shelters,” she added.
Additionally, she said the Committee is seeking to access some of the shelters, as well as those, designated as priority shelters by the ODPEM. There are more than 50 shelters and some 20 priority shelters in the parish, according to Miss Lewis.
The Parish Coordinator stated that priority shelters will be equipped with “comfort materials” in an effort to ensure that they are child-friendly and comfortable.
“They are trying to raise the comfort levels of these shelters for the occupants and ensure that they are equipped with comfort materials,” she added. Among the shelters selected as priority shelters are the Spanish Town Primary, Old Harbour High, and Charlemont High schools.
Meanwhile, Miss Lewis said the Committee is appealing to persons in the parish to work as volunteers in the event of a disaster.
“We know it is a challenge, but we ask that you give yourself to serve, to assist us in the process of disaster management,” she said.
She pointed out the committee has been encouraging persons to offer their services, especially persons who have expertise in various fields and who are willing to work before, during, and after a disaster.
However, Miss Lewis said the Committee is pleased with the group of persons, who have been working as shelter managers. She noted that one of the challenges facing the Committee is the lack of funding to adequately stock the shelters with necessary supplies.
“That is a challenge that we face, but we try to make the best of what is made available to us,” she added.