Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Disaster coordinators must be accessible, says McKenzie

Published:Friday | July 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Desmond McKenzie

WESTERN BUREAU:

As the Government continues to make preparations for the 2017 hurricane season, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie is urging parish disaster coordinators across the country to take their responsibilities seriously by making themselves easily accessible should there be a hurricane.

McKenzie, who was addressing parish disaster coordinators and municipal corporation public relations officers at the Hyatt Ziva Hotel in Montego Bay, St James, earlier this week, said that the role of a disaster coordinator is a proactive one, hence they should be accessible at all times.

"Being a disaster coordinator does not mean you sit in an office around a desk. It means you have to be out there. There should be no disaster coordinator that should be out of reach via communication during a period of disaster," said McKenzie.

The meeting, which was called to discuss the level of islandwide preparation for the 2017 hurricane season, which experts say will be very active, gave McKenzie a chance to outline his expectations to the disaster coordinators.

SWIFT ACTION

"When the instructions are given to activate the local parish disaster committees, from the moment the activation is put in place, you are activated too. So you can't go and cuddle up with anybody in bed and get too comfortable as you are going to be on call 24 hours a day," added McKenzie.

McKenzie also outlined plans to unite disaster coordinators with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) to better organise disaster-relief efforts, an initiative that he said has been resisted on past occasions.

"If I am to have an effective response mechanism for disaster coordination, it has to be done under one umbrella, where everybody is singing from the same page, out of the same hymn book," said McKenzie.

"I know of cases where parish coordinators refused to take instructions from ODPEM, and they said they only take instructions from the mayor. That cannot be. So what we intend to do is to regularise and to bring the entire disaster response under one umbrella, and when it comes, I am quite sure the end result will be what we want."