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Jamaicans urged to heighten preparedness for hurricane season

Published:Monday | June 3, 2019 | 9:51 AM
Chairman of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Joy Douglas, addresses a press conference on Friday, May 31, 2019, at the agency's offices in New Kingston to launch activities for Disaster Preparedness Month. Listening (from left) are Director of the Meteorological Service, Evan Thompson, and Manager, Communication and Customer Services, National Works Agency (NWA), Stephen Shaw - Contributed photo

With the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season now in effect, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is imploring Jamaicans to heighten preparedness for any eventualities.

ODPEM  Chairman,  Joy Douglas, said Jamaicans, particularly those living in vulnerable areas, must heed warnings, remain alert, and put measures in place to ensure their safety during times of emergencies.

She was addressing a press conference at ODPEM’S offices in New Kingston on Friday to launch activities for Disaster Preparedness Month under the theme ‘Reducing Risk one Community at a time’. 

Douglas said that the Government continues to work towards building disaster resilience in the natural and the built environment.

She noted that climate-smart considerations are reflected in all of the works being done under the US$353-million Major Infrastructure Development Programme and will continue under its replacement programme, while provisions under the Building Act and the Disaster Risk Management Act help to reduce risk.

Meanwhile, Director of the Meteorological Service, Evan Thompson, said experts are anticipating a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season, with some nine to 15 tropical storms forecast for the period, which ends on November 30.

“Four to eight could become hurricanes, with two to four being major hurricanes. They will reach category three, four or five, with the potential to create significant damage to the island’s infrastructure. We have to prepare ourselves for anything that could happen,” Thompson said.

Meanwhile, ODPEM’s Acting Director General, Richard Thompson, said that the country’s infrastructure and housing stock “must be hardened”.

He said that given Jamaica’s vulnerability to disasters, emphasis must be placed on continuous mitigation measures and how buildings are erected.

“We have to ensure that… there is integration of disaster risk-reduction measures in critical sectors such as tourism, education, health, agriculture and fisheries,” he added.

Thompson said that preparedness and mitigation activities “should not just be carried out at the start of the hurricane season, but should be a 365-day-per-year activity”.

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