Jamaica not prepared for disasters

“We have not got it right,” Prime Minister Bruce Golding confessed on the matter of disaster prevention in Jamaica, as he addressed regional and international representatives at the fourth Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM).

“We are on the way, but we still have a far way to go in terms of development plans for the island. Much more is spent on rebuilding than on preventing,” he lamented at the conference.

“Where we have fallen is enforcement. It’s one thing to lay out the do’s and the don’ts, but if we don’t support that with a strong enforcement machinery with appropriate sanctions, then the outcome will not be what is expected.”

Observing the theme, ‘Streng-thening CDM through Youth and Community Empowerment’, the conference pools policymakers, practitioners, researchers and donors from around the world in the form of a regional forum to exchange data, experience, research, tools, products and best practices on CDM.

The parish of St James has made an effort to address disaster management with their Disaster Information Database System (DIDS), putting the parish in a better position to handle the eventuality of a natural disaster.

The DIDS was created to improve the management of shelters and resources, and is done through the St James Parish Council. It provides a list of emergency shelters, contact lists, hazard information, as well as standard forms, and can be accessed through the St James Parish Council website.

With climate change as a major issue in disaster management, the prime minister in his more than 40 minute address argued that “poverty is as much a threat to the environment as global warming and it is something that we can never remove from our agenda, as it is a challenge to Jamaica and, therefore, environment management”.

Executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, Jeremy Collymore, concurred.

He said it was time for action, as this was a critical aspect of the region’s efforts to build disaster-resilient communities, to ensure that persons at all levels have the knowledge and tools to cope with the adverse effects of natural and technological hazards.