ODPEM aiming to assist more persons

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KINGSTON — Director General, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson says the agency is aiming to expand its capacity to be able to provide emergency and relief supplies and resources to more persons seriously affected by severe weather systems, such as tropical storms and hurricanes.

Speaking at the agency’s hurricane preparedness month press conference at their Haining Road, New Kingston office last week, Mr. Jackson said while they are currently only able to provide relief supplies to 24,000 persons, as a first line of response in the event of a disaster, the necessary mechanisms are in place which can facilitate a boost in their capacity.

The Director General said ODPEM has been getting support from some donor partners to increase its level of support, disclosing that an additional 2,000 persons are expected to be added to the 24,000 they are currently able to assist, by June (the start of the hurricane season).

“We have protocols in place that will allow us to access resources through some of our partners, such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and others. We want to get to 50,000 (persons), in terms of our stock levels,” Mr. Jackson said.

“The fact that we didn’t have an event (last year), helped us in terms of our readiness for this year, because the resources remain intact. And so, we only had to reposition them from the parish stores back to the national stores, until such time,” he added.

Pointing out that this year’s hurricane preparedness focus must be on the less fortunate, Mr. Jackson bemoaned the fact that, in the best of times, these persons depend on the state welfare infrastructure to survive on a daily basis.

“We recognise that there is a sector of our society that won’t be able to buy the shutters and to buy and stock food supplies for an event, and perhaps, won’t be able to find insurance to cover their homes. I think the focus, nationally, must be on those individuals, and the persons who have the capacity and wherewithal, must begin to address those other things that they can do,” Mr. Jackson stressed.