ODPEM prepared to forcibly evacuate persons living in flood prone areas
Persons living in low-lying areas prone to flooding can be forcibly removed, under the law, once a threat has been identified, reminds Director General of Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Major Clive Davis.
“The law permits me under certain conditions to move anybody or anything... once a threat is identified (or) a threat is imminent. There are certain conditions that have to be met, and once the Prime Minister signs (off) on that, then it gives me, as the Director General, certain powers to then act in a certain manner, and we will do it to save lives, Davis said.
“We have not done it since 2015 when that Act came into being,” he noted.
Davis was speaking with journalists following a presentation on the country’s readiness for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season at a Rotary Club of Kingston luncheon held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on June 7.
It was noted that the Disaster Risk Management Act seeks to strengthen the country’s overall national disaster preparedness, emergency management and response processes and mechanisms through a range of measures.
These measures include giving recognition to existing organisational structures such as 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 financing the National Disaster Fun.
“We prefer to do moral suasion. We want to go in and we want to have the discussions; we want people to know their vulnerability, and we want people to get up and move because you could die, but if they are not moving, we will have to do it,” he emphasised.
He said engagement with residents as well as proper coordination of the evacuation efforts starting with warning and public education systems, have already commenced in several communities.
The ODPEM head said sensitisation sessions have been conducted in communities on the south coast, primarily in the parish of Clarendon (Rocky Point); sections of the Rio Grande Valley in Portland; and in communities in St. James.
He added that the sessions will continue.
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is projected to be near or above normal with 10 to 16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes (category three and above).
The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.