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The ODPEM is headed by a Board of Management appointed by the Honourable Prime Minister of Jamaica through the Office of the Prime Minister who has responsibility for the ODPEM. The Board of Management appoints the Director General who leads a staff complement divided into five divisions:

Corporate Services Division

The Corporate Services Division is committed to providing efficient, effective support to internal and external stakeholders and to strengthen ODPEM’s institutional capacity through professional quality service.

The Corporate Services Division is responsible for strengthening the ODPEM’s institutional capacity and handles all legal and corporate issues. The Division also acts as the chief liaison in terms of:

  • Corporate planning
  • Performance management
  • Succession planning
  • Awards and recognition programmes
  • Board meetings
  • Staff development

The Division constantly reviews the support structure of the Organization to facilitate the effective positioning of the ODPEM in coping with disasters by ensuring that all necessary human and material resources are readily available. The Corporate Services Division can, therefore, be described as the hub of the Organization, adequately providing the resources that propel and enables the ODPEM to function effectively.

It also serves as the Secretariat for the Finance and Administration Sub-Committee of the National Disaster Committee (NDC) and is also the executing arm of the NDC, with responsibility for maintaining links with other agencies.

Units Within the Corporate Services Division

A Senior Director heads the Division with managerial support from a Director of Finance, Human Resources Manager, Information Systems Manager, Rental Business Manager and Administrator.

The Division boasts the largest staff complement and consists of the following units:

  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Information Systems
  • Office Administration
  • Rental Business/Income Generation

Information and Training (IT) Division

The Information and Training Division is committed to providing information through research, public education, awareness, and training programmes on natural and man-made hazards in a comprehensible form so that it will be easily disseminated and assimilated by our public through a highly dynamic and motivated staff who will go the extra mile to impart facts and figures on hazards with which the country is faced.

The Information and Training (IT) Division is the Organizations’ hub for the creation of effective public education and training programmes to promote a greater awareness for disasters to the Jamaican populace.

The Division is responsible for:

  • The dissemination of information to the public via news releases, advisories and media releases.
  • The operation of a Documentation Centre.
  • The production of printed material and audiovisuals for information dissemination to the public.
  • The operation of an Information Desk.
  • Updating and providing information on the Organization’s website.
  • Providing training to schools, businesses, community groups and other organizations.
  • Conducting site visits and the inspection of areas to assess risk.
  • The unit renders support to the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) in convening meetings of the Public Education and Information subcommittee.

Functions of the Information and Training Division

The Division has two main functions: information dissemination and training.

1. Information Dissemination

This deals with the interpretation and expression of information in a comprehensive format, such as through audio-visual techniques, documents and statements, disaster plans and policies, guidelines and procedures.
To this extent the Division is mandated to:

  • Establish and maintain an on-going public education programme with respect to all aspects of the Organization’s operations.
  • Monitor local and international media reports on a daily basis and provide feedback to the public.
  • Arrange internal and external coverage of programmes and activities carried out by the Organization.
  • Arrange and implement press conferences, press briefings and develop a close relationship with the media while utilizing their services to promote the policies and programmes of the Organization.

2. Training

Training programmes offered by the ODPEM through the Information and Training Division comprise:

  • Training for public and private sector organization representatives in the preparation of disaster plans.
  • Lectures on aspects of disaster preparedness.
  • Staging of emergency seminars for specialized groups such as safety and floor monitors in an organization and safety Committees.
  • Inspection of areas through site visits to assess their vulnerability, in conjunction with other response agencies such as the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB).

Mitigation, Planning and Research Division (MPRD)

The Mitigation, Planning and Research Division (MPRD) is committed to contributing to the development of ODPEM and ultimately disaster management through the provision of relevant research, planning and mitigation activities geared at providing a solid framework for decision-making.

The time worn cliché, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, remains true, especially in light of the role and function of the Mitigation, Planning and Research Division (MPRD). The occurrence of natural hazards cannot be avoided but effective planning may minimize its impact.

MPRD is regarded as the scientific/technical arm of the Organization and is therefore a primary data centre for resource professionals in disaster management.

The Division also acts as the Secretariat for the Damage Assessment, Rehabilitation and Recovery Sub-Committee of the National Disaster Committee (NDC), which meets on a regular basis. The Permanent Secretary of the Transport and Works Ministry chairs these meetings and the Senior Director of MPRD serves as Vice Chair.

The main functions of MPRD are to:

  • Collect and analyze data on natural and man-made hazards in an effort to reduce our vulnerability and minimize risk potential.
  • Prepare disaster plans and reports to improve the island’s capacity in responding to the effects of the above hazards. This is executed through the sub-areas of Planning and Research, and Mitigation.
  • The Organization’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which is useful in capturing and analyzing spatial data, also resides in MPRD.

Planning and Research

This area of MPRD’s work covers the concept of development planning in keeping with strategies for sustainable development. This essentially means the integration of development practices that minimizes negative impacts on the environment.

The main focus of MPRD’s planning activities concerns:

  • The receipt and assessment of sub-division applications made through the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
  • The preparation of damage assessment reports.
  • Assessment of issues related to the vulnerability of natural and man made hazards.
  • The provision of extensive research on issues related to land use zoning.
  • Recommendations as to the types of development that should take place based on vulnerability assessments, while ensuring that development in vulnerable areas incorporate relevant hazard reduction strategies.

Research is carried out both internally and externally and is dependent on the requirements of the job to be carried out. To fulfill its external commitments, three types of field or site visits are conducted:

1. Damage assessments:

This is an investigation at the locations that have been impacted and suffered various degrees of damage from natural and man-made disasters.

2. Sub-division approvals:

Site visits are conducted at the actual location pending approval.

3. Vulnerability assessments:

Assessments are conducted on various buildings owned by the Government of Jamaica as well as on privately owned organizations and buildings in communities across the island.


The functions involved in Mitigation complements the Planning and Research functions of the Division. Its primary aim is to conduct studies as to projects with a view to implementation.

An ongoing project that is under review involves the Pedro River in St. Ann where activities such as sinkhole cleanings have been carried out and community meetings have been held to create a greater awareness for protecting the community’s environment. Mitigation programmes are also incorporated as part of other projects carried out by the ODPEM.

Mitigation Practice Levels

Mitigation practices adopt a three-pronged approach targeting three distinct levels:

1. Individual and community level:

Mitigation programmes convey an impassioned appeal to the individual to adopt basic mitigation strategies such as ensuring that roofs are reinforced with hurricane straps and retrofitting the home against hazards.

The community is also earmarked to promote the maintenance of localized areas such as keeping gullies free of debris, the protection of hillsides to prevent slope failure, and advocating for the cleaning of major drains in their communities.

2. Parish level:

MPRD acts as a “watchdog” or regulatory unit of the ODPEM, which encourages partner agencies and community organizations to incorporate mitigation in their planning.

This activity also involves the local government structure through the Parish Councils where reminders are sent to the respective parishes requesting an identification of critical drains with a view to prioritizing drain cleaning exercises.

3. National level:

At the national level MPRD continues to be involved in the development of the National Mitigation Policy (Draft 1999).

Preparedness and Emergency Operations Division (PEOD)

The Preparedness and Emergency Operations Division is committed to preparing the nation, the state agencies and the local emergency management organizations to effectively manage, respond to and recover from the impacts of disasters caused by a multiplicity of hazards through training, public awareness, technical advice, coordination, simulation exercises and planning.

The Preparedness and Emergency Operations Division (PEOD) is made up of three units:

  • Preparedness and emergency operations
  • Logistics
  • Telecommunications

The Deputy Director General has direct responsibility for the Division and has the overall responsibility for the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) in an emergency. The Senior Director of Preparedness and Emergency Operations also supports the Deputy Director General with managerial support for the Division.

Preparedness and Emergency Operations

This unit consists of a Senior Director of Preparedness and Emergency Operations, four Regional Coordinators, and a Secretary.

1. Senior Director of Preparedness and Emergency Operations:

The Senior Director of Preparedness is, in “normal times,” required to introduce such programmes designed to have the nation fully prepared to cope with and reduce the impact of potential hazards. These are conducted through coordinated disaster preparedness activities at the national, parish and local levels.

In times of disasters the Senior Director is required to obtain accurate, rapid information concerning the disaster, the human and material conditions and to make decisions and take action to relieve the situation. He/She also has the responsibility to ensure that, through coordinated action, there is immediate and effective response to disasters or emergency situations.

2. Regional Coordinators (RCs):
The RCs are primarily responsible for coordinating preparedness and response activities to the region to which they are assigned. The island is divided into four regions as follows:

  • Northern: Portland, St. Ann, and St. Mary
  • Southern: Clarendon, Manchester, and St. Elizabeth<
  • Eastern: Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, and St. Thomas
  • Western: Hanover, St. James, Trelawny and Westmoreland.

RCs are also responsible for providing Parish Disaster committees, government agencies, private sector organizations and voluntary organizations with the necessary technical advice and assistance in implementing disaster preparedness measures.
Direct areas of assistance are:

  • The development of parish and community disaster plans.
  • The development and management of community disaster management committees referred to as Zonal Committees.
  • The implementation of training programmes such as shelter management and emergency management.

Logistics Unit

The Logistics Unit is instrumental during the ODPEM’s relief activities after a national disaster. Headed by the Senior Director of Preparedness and Emergency Operations, the Unit is managed by a Logistics Manager who is assisted by a Records Officer.

Some of the activities of the Unit include:

  • The adequate provision of relief supplies in the National Emergency Stores to effectively deal with disaster situations primarily within the first 72 hours following the incident.
  • Holding a strategic position as the northern focal point under the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) mechanism while providing warehousing facilities for regional stores for use in The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Belize, and Jamaica.
  • The allocation and management of funds through the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) to cover a broad spectrum of relief operations.
  • The inventory of basic comfort items, basic relief appliances, cooking utensils, temporary shelters, and other necessary sleeping aids such as cots.
  • Liaising with other relevant relief agencies and maintain contact in emergencies to meet their specific needs during an emergency.
  • The maintenance of periodical dialogue with ports of entry to ensure that there are designated areas at these facilities for the storage of incoming relief items in the event of a disaster.
  • The monitoring of three Regional Stores that is in the process of being established in the parishes of St. James, St. Mary and Manchester.

The unit also relies on assistance from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and civilian volunteers to assist in relief distribution.

Telecommunications Unit

The Telecommunications Unit is responsible for monitoring the radio base station located at the ODPEM. The Unit:

  • Communicates with Parish Disaster Committees islandwide via a VHF Radio Network.
  • Monitors wind speed and collects rainfall data in the corporate area via a weather station.
  • Communicates with international agencies via a two-way tower antennae that links the ODPEM station to overseas agencies, enhancing the Organization’s ability to communication during national emergencies.

Projects Implementation, Development and Monitoring Division

The Projects Implementation, Development and Monitoring Division is committed to providing optimum services in the development, execution monitoring and evaluation of projects in fulfillment of ODPEM’s core mandate to coordinate and provide services in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

Having recognized that relief efforts would not, in the long run adequately address the impact of disasters and that loss reduction measures would be necessary, the ODPEM as part of its larger loss reduction campaign, established the Projects Implementation, Development and Monitoring Division in January 2002 with the main goal of developing an advocacy for bilateral funding for disaster management related projects.

Its objectives are:

  • To identify and seek opportunities for the funding of projects and programmes in vulnerability reduction and disaster management.
  • To carry out an analysis of the local context and project situation.
  • To promote the underlying principles of vulnerability reduction and sustainable development.
  • To coordinate and monitor projects/programmes within the Organization.
  • To maintain relationships with project sponsors and project review evaluation missions.

This Division is managed by a Senior Director of Projects and administrative support is provided by a Senior Secretary.

The nature of disaster management projects encompasses all areas of Risk Management and draws from resources and expertise across the divisions at the ODPEM in executing projects.  The Projects Division  therefore plays a key role in ensuring that the various components of programmes are carried out by the respective units at the ODPEM in a timely and efficient manner. 


The benefits of a structured and successful Project Programme is that:

  • It provides support to programmes already in place by providing funding, where none previously existed.
  • Ensures a more structured approach.
  • Provides an avenue by which best practices may be shared and therefore enrich our own experiences.