The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODEPM) on February 23 handed over several emergency preparedness tools to residents of the Ginger Hill and New River communities in St. Elizabeth.
The items included water boots, raincoats, first aid kits, weed whackers, power saws, and manuals.
They were provided under the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-funded ‘Building Disaster Resilient Communities Project’, which provides disaster mitigation and emergency management training to communities prone to flooding and landslides, including the setting up of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).
Some 28 vulnerable communities across the island have benefitted from the $43 million project, which includes the provision of community hazards maps and standard operating manuals for earthquakes, hurricanes, and fire.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony held at the Black River offices of the St. Elizabeth Parish Council, Research Analyst at ODPEM, Christopher Gayle, said it is crucial that community groups in vulnerable areas are empowered and equipped as they are the first point of response when disasters strike.
“While we have the official response mechanisms at the parish and national levels it is really the communities that are first on the scene to respond to these disasters. With the necessary training and tools and equipment, they will be better prepared to manage emergency situations, which so frequently beset us,” he said.
Secretary Manager at the Council, David Parkes, urged that the manuals be made available to the wider community members.
“It is information to guide you all when that disaster comes. It is not hidden; it is in this text, read it page by page. It tells you everything; who the key persons are to give you guidance, and how you do the necessary steps. It is a very important tool to protect your (property) and life,” Mr. Parkes noted.
President of the Ginger Hill Benevolent Society, Lucilyn Watson, in welcoming the donation, said the items will greatly benefit the area, which is severely affected by flooding, and help build community spirit.
Meanwhile, Councillor for the Santa Cruz Division, Stallyn Brown, said the residents of New River “appreciate these gifts, and they will be used for the (protection) of our communities, especially in time of disaster. I would encourage our citizens to be on the alert for disasters. We want to work together because, at the end of it, it is us who suffer and we have to do our team work and together we can make it."
President of the New River Community Emergency Response Team, Calmen Dunkley-Roberts, informed that the training provided has already helped to save one life, noting that residents recently utilised their first aid skills to save a toddler, who was choking.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter