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ODPEM developing national disaster risk management volunteer programme

Saturday, January 13, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) —The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has launched its National Disaster Risk Management Volunteer Programme, designed to strengthen community and parish level stakeholder response to catastrophes.

The initiative is rooted in the need identified to establish and provide a collaborative and coordinated approach to disaster management through volunteerism.

Community volunteers, who are being invited to participate, will be trained in various emergency techniques that equip them to act as first responders in the event of disasters.

These include: cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid, light search and rescue, and shelter management.

Senior Director, Projects Development Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation at ODPEM, Pauline Brown, said the entity received approximately $8.94 million (€60,000) from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to undertake a nine-month project, ahead of the national programme’s development and implementation.

The project entailed designing of the programme’s logo and training of 117 volunteers in basic disaster management, shelter management, and initial damage assessment.

“A national database was (also) created, with technical assistance through the Argentine South-South and Triangular Cooperation which, to date, has 1,165 persons registered to become national volunteers,” the senior director stated.

She added that other donor partners will be lobbied for funding support to provide the necessary training for the volunteers.

The Senior Director was speaking at the launch of Earthquake Awareness Week at ODPEM’s New Kingston head office Monday.

Brown noted that while there are many groups established to deal with disasters in communities islandwide, their activities are not aligned with the mechanisms of the various parishes.

She explained that during the onset or occurrence of a disaster, community volunteers routinely report to the parish operation centre.

“This centre then reports to the national emergency centre which will facilitate any need for deployment across the parishes as well as any support requested. The volunteer groups will operate in a similar manner,” she pointed out.

In this regard, the senior director said the national volunteer programme is intended to provide the framework consolidating coordinated responses to all emergencies at the community and parish levels.

Brown pointed out that the programme will focus on boosting the capacity of persons volunteering individually and in groups, adding that they will be managed and facilitated by under the parish mechanism in relation to the requisite attendant responses to disasters as well as planning at the national level.

Meanwhile, volunteer and project participant, Honief Myrie from Portland Cottage, Clarendon, said the training he received has bolstered his ability “to assist my community members as a first responder”.

Another volunteer, Paulette Coley, of Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine, noted that her community is prone to disasters, and as such “I want to be able to assist my community as a first responder; that is what I enjoy doing…that is my passion”.

“In past times, by the time external agents come in (to) assist, persons are (faced with challenges) to their detriment. But because we (volunteers) are there, we are able to (act as) liaisons and we are the first persons who can get out there and help persons to better protect themselves,” she stated.

Meanwhile, Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, said the persons offering to serve as disaster risk management volunteers are rays of hope for the country.

“The volunteers come from all over Jamaica…from communities which include those officially assessed as being vulnerable to disasters. I want to thank them for stepping forward to serve,” he said in a message read by Director of Urban and Regional Planning in the Ministry, Marsha Henry-Martin.

Persons desirous of becoming volunteers must be Jamaican or legal residents, 18 years or older, and be able to manage challenging situations.

Individuals should be time and task-oriented; able to communicate well with persons of various ages and socio economic backgrounds; and willing to lend service to national duty without prejudice.

The advantages of becoming a member of the programme include opportunities for: learning or skills development; obtaining professional experience; contributing to national development; and network expansion.

Interested persons should register online at; contact the ODPEM at (876) 906-9674; or send an email to:

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