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ICT Integral to Disaster Preparedness

Published:Wednesday | June 3, 2015 | 2:25 PMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Ruel Corniffe (left), senior telecoms engineer, at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, explains the use of a weather alert system to Dainalyn Swaby (centre), communication coordinator ACDI/VOCA and Asha Bobb-Semple, programme associate, United Nations Development Programme at the launch of Disaster Preparedness Month 2015, at 2-4 Haining Road on Tuesday.

Hilary Alexander, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science,Technology, Energy and Mining, has underscored the need for a stable and resilient information and communication technology (ICT) sector to be included in the plans for disaster mitigation.

Speaking at the launch of Disaster Preparedness Month held at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) offices in New Kingston, on Tuesday, she said that communication is a critical factor for any country to respond effectively to an emergency.

"You must be able to have your communications systems working in order to link the people who are going to be first responders to the people who are in the community, in addition to the international community, who we call on as part of our framework for response and mitigation," she declared.

"We might have been able to gather resources, but in order to get it to the people and save lives, there must be effective communication. The stability and the resilience of the ICT systems to allow that communication to happen is a critical element in our ability to control the effect and impact of the disaster," Alexander said.

She also noted that the ministry had been making strides to enhance communication across the island, adding that they were on board in collaborating with the ODPEM.

"Key partners, including the community centres, the shelters, the fire brigade, among others, must have a good amount of supply of electricity, as much as possible. It won't be 100 per cent, but the point is, community centres and those people who are the first responders must have access to stable power," she said.

"I believe we are doing quite well in terms of the stability and strength of our ICT systems. Through the Universal Service Fund, we are rolling out broadband across the island. There are hundreds of community access points, libraries and hospitals, and so the work continues," the permanent secretary said.

In the meantime, director general for ODPEM, Major Clive Davis, pointed out that the community has to be priority in any mitigation plan.

"All parish coordinators are expected to go into their parish and identify or update their shelters. They must inform us as to whether the shelters are still available and all the necessary information, and up to today, all the coordinators have indicated that all parishes have somewhere people can go, in case of an emergency," he declared.