Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Recent flood devastation raises concern about hurricane preparedness

Published:Friday | May 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Residents of Douglas Castle in Clarendon wade through flood waters caused by recent heavy rains.

Major Clive Davis, director general at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), admitted that the recent flood rains have caused persons, including international partners, to raise concerns about the organisation's ability to adequately prepare for the hurricane season which starts on June 1.

Davis, however, sought to allay those fears, indicating that despite the challenges of the flood rains, it created an avenue through which various international organisations, including the United Nations (UN), have offered to provide additional assistance where needed.

Jamaica recently experienced heavy rains over an approximate one week period, which resulted in severe flooding across several parishes, with Clarendon recorded as the worst affected.

"Persons are concerned, including my international partners, and we have been trying to reassure them that the preparations don't stop," he told The Gleaner.

"I must point out that we have some regional and international partners who called us the very day the rain started. The UN is one of those agencies that has written to us already and we told them what we expended and have asked them to replenish.

We are actually probably better off than worst off. CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency) called us at the start of the event asking us, too, if we needed assistance and we have not had reasons up to this point, to request re-stocking from them."


Preparations not halted


Davis made it clear that the recent rain has in no way hampered preparations for the pending hurricane season, indicating that it is nothing new to the agency.

"Nothing at the ODPEM is unexpected. We are prepared for a range of emergencies or adverse situations.

It is very important for us to understand that throughout the year normally, even though we have no floods or major issues, we have fires almost weekly in communities, and so we are mandated to support the parishes when they have these fires," he said.

"We cannot afford to be unable to respond. Every time we have a fire in an inner-city community, we are called upon to provide beds, and so on, and we have to replenish that stock. I must add that the ODPEM has never been out of finances to stock its relief supplies."