Are you pre­pared?

Jamaica Gleaner - - ACROSS THE NATION -

ALL NA­TIONAL dis­as­ter-pre­pared­ness agen­cies have been mo­bilised and placed on high alert as Hur­ri­cane Matthew gets closer to Ja­maica.

This storm is be­ing taken se­ri­ously be­cause with all the im­proved ca­pa­bil­i­ties for ad­vance warn­ing, the likely path places this Cat­e­gory Three hur­ri­cane near Ja­maica early next week. If the coun­try is pre­pared, it can face the ex­pected on­slaught with con­fi­dence.

It is re­as­sur­ing that the Gov­ern­ment, its de­part­ments and agen­cies, have taken prepara­tory steps to ac­ti­vate the emer­gency sys­tems. This news­pa­per ac­knowl­edges that dis­as­ter man­age­ment is an es­sen­tial fac­tor in good gov­er­nance and is a crit­i­cal area of na­tional plan­ning, for when dis­as­ter strikes, it dis­rupts liveli­hoods, in­ter­rupts eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, and causes re­sources to be di­verted.


Even if Ja­maica is spared a di­rect hit, at the very least, the coun­try can ex­pect heavy rain­fall, which could spark ma­jor chaos cre­ated by land slip­page and downed trees and power lines. Prepa­ra­tion and cau­tion could make the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death. This im­pend­ing weather sys­tem can cre­ate many haz­ards for the coun­try, in­clud­ing the de­struc­tion of farms and live­stock.

De­spite all the ini­tia­tives that have been taken, there re­main sig­nif­i­cant gaps in Ja­maica’s dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness that arise from the poor en­force­ment of stan­dards and build­ing reg­u­la­tions. As a re­sult, peo­ple con­tinue to con­struct homes on gully banks and in other flood­prone ar­eas. The ap­peals for them to move to higher ground dur­ing times of dis­as­ter are usu­ally met with stiff re­sis­tance.

An­other glar­ing gap in our dis­as­ter man­age­ment is the poor drainage sys­tem, which is ex­ac­er­bated by garbage-choked wa­ter­ways. Un­til this sys­tem is prop­erly over­hauled and solid waste man­age­ment im­proved, the coun­try must con­tinue to brace it­self for flood­ing – and worse, dam­age to crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing roads and bridges.


Emer­gency cen­tres have been opened and house­holds need to as­sess the risks as­so­ci­ated with their com­mu­ni­ties to make a de­ter­mi­na­tion as to whether they need to seek shel­ter, bear­ing in mind that haz­ards such as power out­ages and flood­ing are likely to re­sult. Those who re­main in their homes have to be pre­pared to be self­suf­fi­cient for at least 72 hours, which is the stan­dard used in many coun­tries.

It is im­por­tant that vul­ner­a­ble per­sons, in­clud­ing those with spe­cial needs, are iden­ti­fied in ad­vance so they can be as­sisted to evac­u­ate if their sit­u­a­tion de­mands it.

The other im­por­tant ques­tion re­lates to how long it will take for the coun­try to re­cover from the ef­fects of the storm and put lives back to­gether. It is es­sen­tial that af­ter a dis­as­ter, the com­mer­cial life of the coun­try is quickly re­stored, so the coun­try is highly de­pen­dent on the ef­fi­cient and timely re­sponse of var­i­ous emer­gency teams. Yet, we urge cau­tion in the restora­tion ef­forts, for many haz­ards could be en­coun­tered.

We can­not stress enough that care­ful plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion will min­imise the im­pact of the hur­ri­cane on fam­i­lies, prop­erty, and busi­nesses.

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