RESIDENTS of St Thomas, Portland and St Mary, which were severely battered during last Wednesday's passage of Hurricane Sandy, are being encouraged to adopt a culture of 'risk prevention', to decrease the overall negative effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters.
The call was made Sunday by Ronald Jackson, director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, as he addressed the Leading with Action Community Meeting, organised by the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) and the subsidiary companies of the JN Group held at the Anglican Church Hall in Morant Bay, St Thomas.
St Thomas, Portland and St Mary normally find theselves in the way of storms, barrelling from east to west during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. The three parishes suffered the brunt of Category one Sandy, which made landfall in Kingston and made a south to north trek across the island, exiting in Portland. Roofs were ripped off and in many cases hoiuses were totally destroyed. Entire crops were wiped out and much of the parishes are still without power.
"The vegetation along the coastline is valuable to the property that it protects," Jackson said. "We are part of an eco-system, and if we destroy our vegetation we will be in danger."
While commending the disaster management mechanisms within the parish for their organised response, he encouraged stakeholders to "look at standards and practices that have been adopted elsewhere, which can be replicated to provide greater protection from hurricanes".
Earl Jarrett, JN general manager, said that part of preparedness also included having a sound financial plan by saving emergency funds that can be accessed to help with preparations for disasters and recovery.
"This does not require having a lot of money, but having the discipline to put aside a small amount monthly," he explained. "Acquiring some form of insurance for your business, home or property is also another important tool in your disaster prevention strategy."
The meeting, which welcomed more than 100 JN members and St Thomas residents, was also used to highlight the JN Group Disaster Recovery Programme, a comprehensive programme of assistance that will seek to assist persons negatively impacted by the hurricane.
"We are offering two special loans to help persons to make repairs to their homes," Jarrett said. "One is a loan of up to $2 million, secured by savings with the institution, or equity in your property, with a low-interest rate for repayment."
In addition, JN General Insurance (JNGI) has activated its Catastrophe Mobile Response Teams, with their "recovery kits" to ensure speedy settlement of insurance claims by its members.
Jarrett also announced that the Morant Bay Branch Advisory Council, which comprises St Thomas residents, has been allocated $800,000 dollars to support hurricane recovery projects.
Meanwhile, Kelly Tomblin, chief executive officer and president of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), asked for patience from customers in the parish who were without electricity, as the company sought to replace the nearly 300 light poles blown down in the eastern section of the island.
Some of the residents in attendance voiced their concern about inadequate water supply in the parish, despite the fact that St Thomas has three major rivers which supply water to other parishes.
Edna Latibeaudiere, JN member and St Thomas resident, also suggested that the numerous water resources in the parish be harnessed to better serve citizens.
Residents also raised concerns about the placement and safety of concrete light poles by the JPS, and the availability of Government assistance for the most vulnerable following the hurricane.
Custos of St Thomas Marcia Bennett said one measure that could help to improve the consistency of water supply would be the provision of a generator for the Springfield Well, which serves the entire parish.
Similar meetings are to be held in Portland and St Mary.