30th Anniversary Picture

ODPEM Celebrates 30 Years

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 marks 30 years since the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) was established. Since 1980, the organisation has paved the way for a formalized approach to disaster management in Jamaica. As the organisation celebrates its 30th anniversary, the commitment is to continue to take proactive and timely measures to prevent or reduce the impact of hazards on Jamaica, its people, natural resources and economy, through its trained and professional staff, the use of appropriate technology and collaborative efforts with national, regional and international agencies.

The ODPEM is the largest national disaster office in the Caribbean. The organisational structure and plans for dealing with all disaster situations have served as a standard and reference for the establishment of other national disaster offices within the Caribbean. It was the first disaster office to be established by Statute (National Disaster Management Act of 1993).

Over the years the organisation has developed and implemented a number of plans to manage national disasters and emergencies. Some of these are:

  • The Portmore Evacuation Plan
  • The National Disaster Plan
  • The National Fire Management Plan
  • The Earthquake Response Plan
  • The National Oil Spill and Hazardous Waste Management Plan
  • The National Transportation Plan
  • The Draft Hazard Mitigation Policy
  • The Shelter and Welfare Relief Policy
  • The Damage Assessment Plan
  • The Draft National Media Plan
  • The National Plan for Riots and Civil Unrest

The organisation is also formally integrated into the development approval process and conducts on schedule, requested site visits to areas for development, to check their disaster readiness.

The ODPEM has also led the way in national preparedness and public education programmes. The focus on preparedness for businesses and schools is of primary importance to the organisation, with the assistance in the form of training on all aspects of disaster management and in the formulation of their disaster plans.

The island’s children remain a priority for the organisation’s work programmes. Earthquake drills, talks, and simulation exercises are conducted with schools to facilitate preparedness. Training of community residents, volunteers in shelter management, damage assessment, community response, and basic disaster management is also high on the organisation’s agenda.

The ODPEM’s efforts at strengthening local communities to respond to their vulnerabilities have resulted in the implementation of community response teams and automated flood early-warning systems since the 1980s. The organisation’s use of technology to enhance our operations is present in all aspects of its activities. The Geographic Information System is used to guide and respond to various hazards the message handling system is used to manage all emergency messages that are directed to the ODPEM.

As the organisation look towards the next 30 years, the ODPEM would like to salute its former leaderships: Mr. Franklin McDonald, Lt. Commander John McFarlane, Mr. Calvin Gray, Major Dennis Nelson, Major Richard Reese, Mrs. Barbara Roache-Clarke, Dr. Barbara E. Carby and Mr. Paul Saunders. Their sterling contribution has provided the platform for the organization’s growth and development over the last 30 years.

The ODPEM’s vision speaks to the provision of high-quality service and the creation of a world-class disaster management organization. So far the organisation has distinguished itself as the leaders of disaster management in the Caribbean and will strive to position itself in a manner which befits the very best.