DIRECTOR general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Ronald Jackson, has said that his office will be meeting with residents of Crescent district in St Catherine to discuss the management of the Dam Head floodgate which curtails access to their community during the closure of the Bog Walk Gorge.
Residents became irate on Sunday after police officers padlocked the emergency gate at Dam Head, locking them inside their community for hours. The gate was locked after four motor vehicles got stuck while going through the Bog Walk Gorge close to 4:00 am, following heavy rain associated with the outer bands of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Jackson said that the community was briefed before the emergency gate was put in two years ago. A similar gate was also placed at Kent Village and another at Bog Walk to prevent vehicular access to the Gorge during flooding.
"We had dialogue with the community, but I suspect that whatever arrangements we had with the community have fallen apart, which has led to the issues being raised," Jackson said.
"We are actually going to be revisiting the discussion to see what additional approaches we can implement to resolve those concerns," he added.
Jackson said that he was still waiting to be briefed about the nature of those discussions held with the community, the parish council, the National Works Agency, and a number of other stakeholders before the gates were put in.
The director general noted that while the construction of the gate was crucial in safeguarding lives, there was need for a sustainable intervention that would not prevent the residents from going about their business.
"In the absence of these barriers, people continue to disregard the signs of risk and to put themselves in harm's way," he said. "Once this happens and the emergency services have to respond, we are also responding in very harmful conditions, and so to prevent the loss of lives and misery; we place the gates to counter the lack of personal responsibility in paying attention to warning messages and also warning signs."
Jackson said that the ODPEM also had to replace the gates since they were put in, after they were either damaged during motor vehicle accidents or vandalised. The gate at Bog Walk is presently damaged and will need to be repaired at a cost of $110,000. The one at Kent Village was also damaged over the weekend.
Jackson could not say whether or not this was before or after the Sunday morning accident.