KINGSTON, Jamaica: Jamaicans are being urged to demonstrate personal responsibility and exercise more proactive measures to mitigate the effects of natural disasters- particularly earthquakes.
“We need to rid ourselves of the national attitude that ‘It can’t happen to me’, and accept that earthquakes and other disasters can happen anytime and anywhere,” says Local Government and Community Development Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie.
“The reality is that no form of meaningful change occurs unless the people of a community or country accept or desire that change.”
Minister McKenzie’s charge came in his message for Earthquake Awareness Week that was read by Mrs. Marsha Henry Martin, the Ministry’s Senior Director for Urban and Regional Planning.
The Week is being observed from January 7 to 13, 2018 and was officially launched on Monday at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) headquarters in Kingston. This year’s theme is ‘Preparing for the quake, helps reduce damage after the shakes’.
Jamaica last major earthquake was in 1907 with a death toll of more than 1000 persons.
According to Minister McKenzie, the Building Bill 2017 was created to address a wide range of construction and spatial issues. The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives late last year and is being debated in the Senate.
He noted that some thirty thousand households can be found in 700 informal settlements islandwide and the housing stock in many, is vulnerable to tremors.
“If half of the provisions of the Building Act, inclusive of the Building Code, are obeyed by ordinary citizens, developers and construction industry practitioners, then I can assure you that Earthquake Awareness Week will have real meaning, and confidence in national preparedness and infrastructural resilience will rapidly rise,” the Minister added.
“My message is that Jamaica will achieve all its commitments to disaster management and resilience, if the national will is demonstrated. It is not beyond us at any level.
Meanwhile, ODPEM and its stakeholder partners have been training volunteers as part of the National Disaster Risk Management Volunteer Programme. Under the Programme, financed by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), 100 volunteers were trained as first responders at the community level in disciplines including light search and rescue; shelter management; initial damage assessment and telecommunications.
A total of 1, 159 persons are registered to the National Disaster Risk Management Volunteer Programme database.