Annotto Bay to get disaster shelter
Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
ANNOTTO BAY, St Mary:
A SHELTER, which is neither a church nor school, to facilitate persons in times of disasters will be built in Annotto Bay.
Ruel Francis, president of the Annotto Bay Community Development and Environment Association, who was speaking with Rural Xpress, following a tour of the town last week, said with a population of approximately 6,000 persons or more, the facility is well-needed.
"After completing a risk assessment in collaboration with ODPEM (Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management) in 2010 leading up to 2013, we realise that this was a critical need for the community. The school (Annotto Bay High School) is our only place of safety should a disaster happen, and that on a number of occasions pose a problem," Francis said.
He also pointed out that his organisation, along with other stakeholders, hopes to sensitise persons as to the importance of evacuation.
"The shelter will be able to facilitate more people and will be more secure. We are also hoping to get the support of the police to facilitate mandatory evacuation because it's very important because buildings here are very vulnerable," Francis said.
He added: "The number one issue is that our people do not love to evacuate, they prefer to stay and fight it out. We have to accept that sometimes security concerns come into play, but we would have to tackle those challenges."
Francis told Rural Xpress that it will be implemented with the hope of creating a holistic facility for residents.
"We plan to use it all year round outside of disaster months for recreational activities. This is the first of its kind for Annotto Bay and Jamaica," he said.
Jacquiann Lawton, senior lecturer at the Caribbean School of Architecture and the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of Technology, who was present at the site, said the Gibraltar Road site is ideal so far based on environmental reasons.
"Going through the town, we realise that it's something that is needed. We are working closely with ODPEM to see a possible site through which we can embark on this shelter. We have looked at two possible sites and we think this one is best so far," she said.
"One of the aspects of disaster has to do with how quickly you can return to normalcy and key things we are looking into will include the initial relief period, the recovery period and the reconstruction period. Each phase of that cycle are different aspects of housing and shelter that come into play," Lawton told Rural Xpress.
She added: "It is important that we have proper evacuation routes, a facility that can cater to a large portion of displaced persons who can settle comfortably in a new location for a temporary period. So far, the high school is the only facility which is not ideal for many reasons."
CAPTION - Principal of the Annotto Bay High School, Michael Lee (left), shares experiences of his school being used as a shelter with (from left) Ruel Francis, president of the Annotto Bay Community Development and Environment Association; Richard Picart, senior architect at the Urban Development Corporation; and Jacquiann Lawton, senior lecturer at the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of Technology. - Ian Allen/Photographer