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J'cans must consider their personal safety in disasters — Mckenzie

Sunday, October 13, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, is calling on Jamaicans to consider their personal safety and responsibility in disasters this International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR), which is being observed today.

“The fact that global warming has now changed the course of how disasters operate, it is critical as a country that we observe the day and speak to some of the issues that we think are important in helping to preserve lives and properties,” the minister told JIS News.

“We need to focus on how we operate as a people, and I can only urge Jamaicans to not only observe the day for what it is worth but also to observe our responsibility well after the day has passed,” he added.

The United Nations (UN) annual observance of IDDRR focuses on how people and communities around the world are taking steps to reduce their exposure to disasters and also to raise awareness about the importance of taking steps to limit the risks faced.

In this regard, McKenzie said Jamaica has made strides.

“Jamaica is one of the leading countries in the region when it comes to disaster preparedness, based on all that the Government is doing, like getting the financing to ensure that if something happens, the country can respond. One of the things we can boast about as a country is the new Building Act that stipulates how you build and where you should build. We are one of the few countries in the world that has had the opportunity in passing this kind of legislation. These are major achievements that many counties have not been able to establish,” he said.

Another milestone for the country was the passage of the Disaster Risk Management Act, 2015. Under this Act, the Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management may order mandatory evacuations.

The minister emphasised that the adherence to these and other warnings are critical, as this contributes to disaster risk reduction.

“There has to be a greater appreciation for danger. Some of us can be much more protective of ourselves and our families by avoiding areas which are flooded, listening to the warnings and taking heed. When somebody says it is time for you to move, you must move, because we are talking about your personal safety now,” McKenzie said.

The minister also implored Jamaicans to refrain from building in gullies and riverbeds and exercise more discipline in garbage disposal, as poor practices in these areas contribute to flooding and the loss of lives.

The country's hosting of the Seventh Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, from July 8 to 10, 2020, in Montego Bay, St James, will bring together representatives from more than 60 countries from around the world to discuss ways to reduce both risk and loss.

— JIS


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