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Gov't, ODPEM seek to boost earthquake resilience

Published:Wednesday | January 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Michelle Edwards (right), senior director for preparedness at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), speaks with Alaric Hacker (left), assistant commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, and Dijon Hacker, a Kingston College student, about safety measures and ways children can protect themselves during an earthquake during the launch of Earthquake Awareness Month at the offices of the ODPEM in St Andrew yesterday. - Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Disaster Risk Management Act to help strengthen response capacity

Colin Fagan, state minister in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, has indicated that the soon-to-be gazetted Disaster Risk Management Act will assist the Government in ensuring that legislative support is in place for disaster resilience.

"This ministry remains committed to advancing the efforts of building a Jamaica that is resilient to disasters in general, and certainly for earthquakes. We are far advanced with the Building Bill, which is now being reviewed by the Legislative Committee of Cabinet, before seeking Cabinet's approval for its tabling in Parliament," he said.

Fagan was addressing yesterday's launch of Earthquake Awareness Month at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in Kingston.

January is being observed as Earthquake Awareness Month under the theme 'Community Strengthening and Awareness - The Recipe for Building Earthquake Resilience'.

Fagan argued that the nation's capacity to deal with such a disaster would depend on the level of preparedness that takes place at the community level. He urged all Jamaicans, irrespective of their location and perceived levels of vulnerability, to practise earthquake drills, acquaint themselves with information regarding earthquakes, and be ready to act if a major quake jolts the island.


Fagan lauded the ODPEM for undertaking several initiatives to increase the awareness level of Jamaicans, particularly as it relates to earthquakes.

"Given the unpredictable nature of earthquakes, it is critical that comprehensive planning and increased opportunities for practice are carried out on a sustained basis - all in an effort to build resilience and minimise impact," he said.

Fagan said the Ministry of Local Government and Community Develop-ment would continue to provide support to ODPEM and key response agencies with responsibility for earthquake preparedness, response, and recovery.

"The lessons from Port Royal and Kingston's devastating quakes have helped to shape the decisions we make and the strategies put forward to build the desired level of resilience," he said.

The state minister added that the capacity of agencies such as the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the National Solid Waste Management Authority are continually being boosted to facilitate efficient response.

The Disaster Risk Management Bill seeks to strengthen the country's overall national-disaster preparedness and its emergency management and response processes and mechanisms through a range of measures.

These include according recognition to existing organisational structures, including the National Disaster Committee, parish disaster committees, and zonal committees, with their roles and functions clearly established; provisions to legally evacuate persons identified as being at risk based on their location; identifying and earmarking high-risk areas as especially vulnerable areas; and outlining the necessary steps to be taken in respect of such areas.

Activities to observe the month will be undertaken islandwide and will include expositions, simulations, and training sessions.