Watch and prepare, please

Friday, August 18, 2017

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Over the past week the region has been experiencing increased activity associated with the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which experts project will be above normal.

Up to yesterday there were three systems in the Atlantic Ocean that will likely strengthen and enter the Caribbean or, if we are fortunate, swerve north into the open sea and hopefully dissipate.

So far there have been seven named storms, with Gert — the second hurricane of the season — now making its way north-east way offshore the United States after forming near Bermuda earlier this week.

We urge all Jamaicans to keep their eyes on the three approaching systems and heed the advice of the country's disaster management authorities to be prepared.

Just this week the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) advised people to ensure that their properties are protected before travelling in the event that a tropical cyclone affects the island.

According to Mr Horace Glaze, ODPEM's director of preparedness and emergency management, people should put things in place to prevent any incidents or minimise their possibility.

Mr Glaze made a very useful suggestion to property owners to create and work from a checklist, especially if their properties are susceptible to landslides and wind damage.

He also reminded people living in flood-prone areas to place furniture and other items on raised platforms.

“If you live in an area where the population is sparse, you may want to let the police know you might be away for an extended period. It's really about assessing your personal circumstances, what your likely risks and vulnerabilities are, and addressing them accordingly,” Mr Glaze was reported as saying.

Mr Glaze also offered other useful bits of advice that we encourage Jamaicans to view on the agency's website, which is populated with many more safety tips, not just for hurricanes, but in the eventually of the island being affected by other natural disasters.

We hope that the efforts made by the State prior to June 1 to prepare the island for hurricanes and their devastating effects are being maintained, for that is the only way that damage can be kept to a minimum.

We must, however, again state our concern that the Disaster Risk Management Act, which was signed into law in February 2015, still lacks the regulations to govern its application. As we pointed out in this space a few months ago, last August Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie vowed that regulations giving the authorities' power to sanction people who violate mandatory evacuation orders would be implemented by the end of 2016.

Unfortunately, there has been no further development on that issue and so we are now smack in the middle of the 2017 hurricane season with many Jamaicans still living in areas that are prone to great risk from storm surges and other conditions associated with tropical cyclones.

We need to develop a culture of people obeying evacuation orders, even as we accept that their fear about leaving property, out of concern for the security of their belongings, is genuine.

Losing valuable possessions, we know, is tough. But once their is life, there is hope.

Our fervent wish, though, is that our country will be spared the ravages of tropical storms. However, wishing must not prevent us from making adequate preparations.




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