Let’s Get Physical | Calling all PWDs, are we ready for hurricane season?
Hurricane season has just begun and the disabled are one of the vulnerable groups of persons in society and as a result we are at great risk. There are different organisations in Jamaica that are focused on emergency response, key of which is the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
What concerns me as a member of the disabled community is that while our needs have been recognised in a lukewarm manner, there are still so many areas that have been neglected. It is, however, important for us persons with disabilities (PWDs) to understand that oftentimes persons are not able to acknowledge some of the other
areas where we have dire needs.
The main reason for this lack of acknowledgement is simply that they are ignorant to our situations/issues. It is possible for persons to see us but not understand our needs and issues without being told or experiencing all the inconveniences we face and all the pain that comes with being disabled.
That being said, I have taken a dedicated approach to speak on the issues while enlightening and sensitising all persons on not just our issues but also providing support to my fellow PWDs.
As the dawn of the 2018 hurricane season breaks over the horizon, I find it crucial to speak to disability disaster response.
Does Jamaica have plans in place for monitoring and evacuation of PWDs in the event of a natural disaster?
According to an online survey conducted by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), people living with disabilities across the world are rarely consulted about their needs in times of disasters. In cases where they need to evacuate, such as during floods or earthquakes, only 20 per cent of respondents said they could evacuate immediately without difficulty, six per cent said they would not be able to evacuate at all and the remainder said they would be able to evacuate with a degree of difficulty.
This survey was conducted in 2013 and clearly PWDs in Jamaica have been advocated for and have been given more attention regarding our needs since then.
This is not satisfactory. Jamaica needs to have sustainable operational systems established and implemented to help PWDs in evacuation of natural disasters and protect us from the adverse impacts of natural disasters.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
What private and public sector organisations can do to protect the disabled:
- Launch public education campaigns tailored for all members of the disabled community to explore preparation and response actions prior to and during natural disaster season
- Create programme management machinery to manage all PWDs before, during and after natural disaster season
- Connect with regional disaster management organisations such as ODPEM and Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency with a view of creating plans and providing support needed for PWDs.
- Partner with JCPD to support disaster preparedness activities and plans.
WHAT TO DO AS A PWDs
Steps to take if you are disabled and live in a high risk natural disaster area:
- If you are taking prescription drugs or in need of special supplies (pampers, catheters, syringes, inhaler, etc.), ensure that you have at least a month's worth of supplies in addition to your current supply.
- Establish a personal evacuation plan with neighbours, family members and person with whom you are very familiar so that you are able to escape the area before the natural disaster get to a crisis stage.
- Contact the closest police station to your area and speak with someone in charge to advise that you are disabled and may be in need of help for evacuation in the event of a natural disaster. Leave your contact details with the representative.
- Ensure that you are fully registered with the JCPD so that you can be accounted for before/after and during natural disaster.
- Observe all other warnings as per the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
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