Carby: ODPEM side­lined by politi­cians in hur­ri­cane prep

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - An­dré Poyser Staff Re­porter an­dre.poyser@glean­

DIREC­TOR OF the Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion Cen­tre (DRRC) Dr Bar­bara Carby, of the Univer­sity of the West Indies (UWI), has lamented the way in which in­for­ma­tion was dis­sem­i­nated dur­ing Ja­maica’s prepa­ra­tions for Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

Ac­cord­ing to Carby, the usual vis­i­bil­ity of the Of­fice of Dis­as­ter Pre­pared­ness and Man­age­ment (ODPEM) was dwarfed by the in­put of politi­cians.

“If a press con­fer­ence is called by the agency lead­ing the prepa­ra­tion ef­forts, it seems to me that the dis­as­ter man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als should be al­lowed to pro­vide op­er­a­tional and sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic, but we did not see that this time around,” she said in an in­ter­view with The Gleaner.

The press con­fer­ence ref­er­enced by Carby was held a day be­fore the hur­ri­cane was ex­pected to make land­fall on the is­land. The no­tice­able ab­sence of a pre­sen­ta­tion by Ma­jor Clive Davis, ODPEM direc­tor gen­eral, was de­scribed as highly ir­reg­u­lar by the DRRC head.

Carby took is­sue with the fact that the brief­ing was dom­i­nated by politi­cians. She ar­gued that pro­fes­sion­als should be al­lowed to ad­dress op­er­a­tional is­sues, while politi­cians fo­cus on pol­icy mat­ters.

“There is nowhere in the world where a few hours be­fore a dis­as­ter is ex­pected to make an im­pact, you do not have the head of the dis­as­ter agency ad­dress­ing the pub­lic. The kinds of in­for­ma­tion that one would have ex­pected from the press con­fer­ence was also lack­ing. So when you have politi­cians tak­ing over the role of and sidelin­ing dis­as­ter man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als, then they had bet­ter be pre­pared to do it prop­erly,” she said.

She fur­ther pointed out that some as­pects of the es­tab­lished poli­cies, pro­to­cols, and pro­ce­dures that the ODPEM has for dis­sem­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic ap­pears to have not been fol­lowed.


Carby, who is a former head of the ODPEM, also said that there were many missed op­por­tu­ni­ties with re­gard to the type of in­for­ma­tion that was be­ing pro­vided to ci­ti­zens.

“We were get­ting in­for­ma­tion about how many beds and items were dis­trib­uted to the shel­ters, but that kind of in­for­ma­tion is not help­ful. That is in­for­ma­tion you put in a sum­mary re­port. What we should have been hear­ing is, for ex­am­ple, if I have a cow out in the field, what to do with the cow,” she said.

She also ob­served that the ODPEM missed op­por­tu­ni­ties to utilise sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion in its com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the pub­lic as well as to make the con­nec­tion be­tween poor de­vel­op­ment prac­tices and dis­as­ter mit­i­ga­tion.

Ref­er­enc­ing the Sendai Frame­work for Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion adopted at the Third United Na­tions World Con­fer­ence last year, Carby noted that much work has been done to guide dis­as­ter man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als on the im­por­tance of us­ing sci­ence to in­form dis­as­ter risk man­age­ment, in­clud­ing pre­pared­ness and re­sponse. This, she said, should have seen the ODPEM us­ing ex­ist­ing risk maps to share in­for­ma­tion with the pub­lic.


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