Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Richard Thompson

ODPEM Head Emphasises Importance of Disaster Preparedness

Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Richard Thompson, says significant emphasis must be placed on earthquake preparedness, in order to protect the economic gains in the country.

Speaking at the ‘St. Bess Disaster Management Expo 2019’, hosted by the St. Elizabeth Municipal Corporation, in collaboration with ODPEM, in Black River, on August 23, Mr. Thompson noted that based on Jamaica’s geographic location, the country is vulnerable and can be hit with a major earthquake at any time.

In that regard, he is urging citizens to take charge of their own readiness by putting measures in place to ensure their safety in the event of a major earthquake.

“It is important that we are placing emphasis on earthquake preparedness and earthquake mitigation practices, and one of the ways to do that is to ensure that you are hardening your infrastructure and you are looking at your building codes and your systems of construction,” Mr. Thompson said.

He further explained that while Jamaicans adhere to good building practices, ODPEM remains focused on continuous mitigation and disaster risk reduction measures.

“We have very good building practices in Jamaica and we have good artisans. We have also extended that to ensure that we have modern building codes, and the local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that from a development planning standpoint, persons abide by the development and building practices,” Mr. Thompson said.

He argued that despite this, “based on our vulnerability as a country, efforts must be made to ensure that better earthquake-resilient practices are being built and mapped out so that we are also ready to respond to any eventuality.”

Mr. Thompson said that ODPEM continues to ensure integration of disaster risk reduction measures in critical sectors, such as tourism, health, education, agriculture, and fisheries.

Meanwhile, Parish Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for St. Elizabeth, Ornella Lewis, told JIS News that the inaugural Disaster Risk Management Expo forms part of a full-scale public awareness initiative by the parish’s Disaster Committee.

“We are getting closer to the peak of the hurricane season, so we decided that we are going to ramp up our public awareness [and] broaden our focus on the other hazards and disasters that are possible,” she explained.

She said the expo, which was held under the theme, “Reducing Risk, One Community at a Time’, focused on both natural and man-made disasters.

Several agencies, including the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Forestry Department, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Road Safety Unit, participated in the event.