Tue | Aug 4, 2020

Hanover ODPEM ready for hurricane season

Published:Wednesday | May 27, 2020 | 12:08 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
A house being washed away during Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
A house being washed away during Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.


THE OFFICE of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in Hanover is now in the process of putting the final touches on its preparedness plans for the upcoming hurricane season, which starts on June 1.

Topping the list of items to get priority consideration is how to deal with possible cases of the contagious COVID-19 respiratory infection, which is now affecting the island, should any such cases show up at any emergency shelter during the hurricane season.

Kenisha Stennett-Dunbar, the parish coordinator for the ODPEM Hanover, told The Gleaner that some 55 official disaster shelters have been identified across the parish. Several other buildings have also been identified, which could be used if there is a need.

Stennett-Dunbar pointed out that at the most recent meeting of her planning committee, the new protocols to be introduced at disaster shelters across the parish were decided on.

“As it relates to the preparation (for the hurricane season), what we are doing in terms of preparing for persons as it relates to shelters, normally as it relates to shelters, we just do inspections to make sure that we have a facility to house them (persons in need), but because of the coronavirus pandemic, we have put other plans in place,” explained Stennett-Dunbar.

“For example, each shelter will have a member from the Ministry of Health present. The persons needing shelter will come in, they will have to go through a registration process, their temperatures will be checked and recorded before they can move to an area where they will be accommodated. We are also looking at the social distancing in terms of the number of persons to be housed in one area. We have also identified isolation and quarantine areas in the shelters. In the event that persons are there and their temperatures start to elevate, then we would isolate them until the Ministry of Health can come and check them,” added Stennett-Dunbar.

The health official further mentioned that an agreement has been reached with the health authorities in the parish which will see Community Health Aid nurses and the retired nurses in the parish being called on to assist at the official disaster shelters.

The disaster preparedness coordinator expressed the view that the continuous planning by her committee has left them in a very prepared state, with enough stock in place, and lines of credit established with businesses within the parish, in case of need.

“My department has been doing public education and sensitisation right throughout the year, so we do not wait until the season is on us to put the plans in place. As it relates to planning and preparation, we are on top of things, we always try to ensure that we are as ready as possible,” said Stennett-Dunbar.

While admitting that any unforeseen circumstances which were not planned for can occur, Stennett-Dunbar said her committee is always ready to adjust and implement in any situation as is necessary.

“I know that we are a resilient set of people and we are also very cautious, but I just want to encourage all Hanoverians to be as prepared as possible, start to prepare as much as possible, be vigilant and be safe,” the ODPEM coordinator advised.