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Who we are

Disaster preparedness is a dynamic function, which includes the identification of disaster threats and risks throughout the country and the formulation of plans to create a state of readiness to meet the needs of victims when a disaster strikes.

Jamaica is very vulnerable to most kinds of disasters:

  • Flood events are prevalent.
  • The constant threat of a hurricane striking Jamaica during the hurricane season – June to November annually - needs serious consideration and planning.
  • Due to our location and our history, Jamaica is also extremely vulnerable to the earthquake hazard.
  • There is also the potential for the occurrence of man-made hazards such as chemical spills, and sea, road, rail and air accidents, and environmental pollution. Civil strife, riots and demonstrations are also further possibilities.
  • Fires may be caused by acts of nature or by man. Forest fires and grass fires may be caused by lightening storms, drought or human error, especially in times of unrest. Similarly home, community or industrial fires may be ignited in a number of ways.

It is because of this realization that, after the June 1979 floods, which devastated sections of western Jamaica, the government of Jamaica recognized the need for the establishment of permanent disaster preparedness and relief organization, which would be responsible for coordinating, monitoring and educating the nation on disasters and disaster events.


ODPEM Old Logo

ODPEM New Logo

Emergence of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Relief Coordination (ODIPERC)

In response to all of the above threats to the country, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Relief Coordination (ODIPERC) was established in July 1980. It was set up on the advice of the United Nations Disaster Relief Office (UNDRO), the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) of the United States’ State Department and the League of Red Cross Societies (LRCS), following their joint review of Jamaica’s vulnerability and the status of the current national emergency management capacity.

From the ODIPERC to the ODPEM

In 1993, the name ODIPERC was changed to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), under the provisions of the new Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Act.

According to Section 4 of the ODPEM Act, the Organization is mandated:

… to advance disaster preparedness and emergency management measures in Jamaica by facilitating and coordinating the development and implementation of integrated management systems.

The ODPEM is the National Disaster Organization responsible for disaster management in Jamaica and has been charged with the responsibility for taking action to reduce the impact of disasters and emergencies on the Jamaican population and its economy. It plays a coordinating role in the execution of emergency response and relief operations in major disaster events.

What we do

As a statutory body, the ODPEM operates out of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development with a Board of Management overseeing its activities.

The ODPEM has the unique role of being the only government agency to provide disaster management functions in Jamaica. Its operations are designed towards:

  • Developing and implementing policies and programmes for the purpose of achieving and maintaining an appropriate state of national preparedness for natural disasters and other emergency events.
  • To encourage and support disaster preparedness and mitigation measures in all parishes in association with Local Government authorities, community based organizations and private and voluntary agencies.
  • Providing early warning, emergency response, relief and recovery operations in emergency situations.
  • Advocating and supporting risk reduction measures.
  • Providing training in all areas of disaster management.
  • Promoting a greater national awareness for disaster management issues through public education and awareness.
  • Conducting hazard identification and risk assessments.
  • Conducting research in social behaviour in relation to disaster mitigation an response .
  • Establishing and maintaining mutual assistance and co-operation agreements among partner agencies, private sector and international donor organizations.