Jamaica unprepared for major hurricane
Although the predictions are for a below-average active hurricane season this year, Jamaica has very limited resources available to respond in the event of a major storm.
According to Noel Arscott, minister of local government and community development, the country would need approximately $50 billion to adequately respond to a major disaster. However, there is currently $250 million in the National Disaster Fund and access to an additional $50 million from the Consolidated Fund.
Speaking yesterday at a post- Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, Arscott also said the National Emergency Stores managed by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) currently have stock valued at $100 million to meet the needs of only 20,000 persons (or 5,000 families of four members each), as well as supplies for only 115 priority shelters, including the National Arena.
"We realise that this stock level is inadequate to satisfactorily address shortages in the event of a major disaster. Therefore, we continue to explore ways to obtain additional items to boost the stocks," said Arscott.
In the meantime, there is good news for the disabled community as the Government now has, up and running, a specialised alerting/early warning mechanism for persons with disabilities, with multiple-mode communications.
ALERT FM is a personal alert and messaging system that enables officials to create and send targeted information, including the Meteorological Service's severe weather warnings, evacuation instructions, school closings, national security notices, and amber alerts to first responders, school officials, businesses, and citizens.
"Significant progress has been realised in relation to the disabled community and their vulnerability to disasters. Working alongside the Combined Disabilities Association and Panos Caribbean, persons with disabilities, as well as their caregivers have been sensitised and are currently more prepared to respond in the event of a disaster or an emergency," Arscott noted.
"We recognise that the residents in the infirmaries are among the vulnerable groups in the event of a disaster. Inspections have been carried out at the infirmaries, all have a disaster plan and an evacuation plan. Evacuation simulations have been done in several infirmaries and alternate relocation sites have been identified in the event that they are required, especially for those facilities located near the sea."
The Naggo Head Primary School in Portmore has also been retrofitted as one of the emergency shelters to better accommodate persons who are physically challenged.
A number of islandwide drain-cleaning programmes are also under way.