Jamaica to test disaster warning system for persons with disabilities

JAMAICA: Testing will begin this week on a pilot early warning system to alert persons with disabilities of impending disaster.

Senior Telecommunications Engineer at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Ruel Corniffe, said that the pilot system, which will be tested in targeted communities in Portmore, St. Catherine, facilitates real-time warning and response to disasters such as hurricanes and flooding for persons with disabilities.

Senior Telecommunications Engineer at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ruel Corniffe (right), shows Executive Director of the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA), Gloria Goffe (left), how to operate a special alert receiver. This is one of the devices to be utilized under a pilot project for the implementation of an early warning system to alert persons with disabilities of Portmore, St. Catherine of impending disaster. Photo: JIS

Senior Telecommunications Engineer at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ruel Corniffe (right), shows Executive Director of the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA), Gloria Goffe (left), how to operate a special alert receiver. This is one of the devices to be utilized under a pilot project for the implementation of an early warning system to alert persons with disabilities of Portmore, St. Catherine of impending disaster. Photo: JIS

“We have started some of the installation of the system…and by the end of this week, we will be starting the actual test of the system,” he informed.

He was speaking on Wednesday, October 9, at the signing of a Memorandum of understanding to undertake the project, at the ODPEM’s offices in New Kingston. The signatories were ODPEM, PANOS Caribbean, the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA) and Sun City Radio.

Mr. Corniffe informed that the project will utilize special receivers, which will enable persons with disabilities to access information on alerts and warnings on existing broadcast systems.

It is being funded by the Canada Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund (CCDRMF) at a cost of $75,000, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Executive Director of the CIDA, Gloria Goffe,saidshe is happy to be part of the project, which will address the awareness and communication problems that persons with disability have, as it relates to disaster preparedness and emergency management.

“The signing of this MoU signifies an acknowledgement that persons with disabilities have special needs that are important to their ability to cope during and after a disaster and also their awareness of, where it exists, a pending disaster, and how they are to prepare for such events,” she said.

Also welcoming the initiative, Acting Mayor of Portmore, Councillor Leon Thomas, said he is grateful that the municipality was chosen for the pilot.

“For years, infrastructure improvement and mobilization have been a challenge to the disabled community in Portmore and we welcome this initiative. We will work with all stakeholders to ensure that this pilot early warning system is monitored and used effectively to ensure the safety of our persons with disabilities in Portmore,” he assured.

According to a release from Panos Caribbean, the project includes creating a registry of all persons with disabilities in the target communities of Waterford, Gregory Park and Bridgeport, geo-coding of this information, and the installation of communication infrastructure to facilitate alerts.  At least 5,000 persons with disabilities live in the three target communities.

The document further notes that $900,000 is being spent under the pilot project on the retrofitting of the Naggo Head Primary school with ramps, special bathroom facilities and other fittings to accommodate the group during disasters.

In addition, 80 shelter managers and disaster responders in Kingston and Portmore have been trained to deal with persons with disabilities as part of the roll-out.

According to Director of Information and Training, ODPEM, Delmares White, the project will also include strengthening inter-agency communication and systems as well as infrastructural improvements and community mobilization.

“At the end of this project, we should have a tested and functional pilot early warning system for persons with disabilities that can be replicated at the national level,” she stated.

Source: JIS

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