The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has embarked on a series of town hall meetings focused on preparedness, mitigation, and response in emergencies.
The ODPEM- an agency of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development- began its series on July 7 with stops in Rocky Point, Clarendon, and Whitehouse in Westmoreland.
The town hall meetings will continue in Port Maria, St. Mary on July 21, and then on July 28 Runaway Bay, St. Ann.
Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, used his presentation on July 14 in Westmoreland to caution residents against ignoring pleas by the local authorities to evacuate their homes when threatened by a natural disaster.
“We are begging you to heed the evacuation warnings and to follow the bulletins closely,” said the Minister, noting that there is a tendency in many flood-prone communities for persons to want “wait and see”.
He added: “We don’t want you to be faced with a situation where it’s too late. We will provide the shelters and other assistance…When they say evacuate… I am begging you to do so.”
Minister McKenzie also maintained that the Government is concerned about the frequency of road accidents throughout the parish of Westmoreland, to the point where the situation has been included in its disaster-preparedness plans.
“We consider the spate of accidents on our roads a disaster, and we have incorporated that in our disaster response programme right across the country,” he explained.
“I would like to urge those persons who use the motorcycle to get involved in the various programmes being undertaken by the Government.”
The Road Safety Unit has been hosting various workshops and safety gear has been made available to motorcycle users, among other initiatives.
Deputy Superintendent of Police attached to the Westmoreland Division, Adrian Hamilton, said the frequency of accidents in the parish is a major cause of worry for the lawmen.
“There have been 27 traffic fatalities in the parish, so far, this year, with 12 motorcyclists among those killed. We are still seeing risky behaviour, such as the removal of motorcycle mirrors and brazen disregard for the rules of the road,” he stated. “When we embark on traffic-enforcement initiatives, the main objective is to modify behaviour.”
On average, over 450 tickets within Westmoreland are issued weekly, a significant percentage of which is for motorcycle drivers who do not wear protective helmets.