Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Freundel Stuart (FP)

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Freundel Stuart, is urging District Emergency Organisations (DEOs) to make an input into proposed amendments to emergency management legislation.

Mr. Stuart, who has responsibility for disaster management, made this appeal yesterday, while speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the St. James Central District Emergency Organisation at the Tamarind Cove Hotel.

He told his audience: "I would value your input in the overall disaster preparedness process and, am encouraging you to review the existing emergency management legislation, with a view to identifying areas that need amendment."

The Minster of Home Affairs expressed the view that it was necessary to focus on vulnerable persons and communities, revealing that some work had started in this area.??

"…A Vulnerable Persons Committee is now in place and a list of vulnerable persons has been prepared.?? This has been a collaborative effort of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), the National Assistance Board and the Welfare Department. Of course, such activities must be of particular interest to each of you, since, by now, the DEOs should be aware of such persons within their sphere of operation and the level of assistance they would require in the event of a disaster," he asserted.

Minister Stuart also outlined Government’s plans for emergency management, which will include the reactivation of the National Council of District Emergency Organisations, an assessment of the staffing needs of the DEM and the implementation of a Comprehensive Disaster Management Policy.?? He explained that existing technology would also be enhanced and cited, the Geographic Information System as an example.?? The system is used to identify vulnerable areas and to allow for hazard mapping.

While lauding the efforts of the DEOs, the Minister deemed it a fitting time to not only reflect on past achievements, but to strategically plan for future adversities.?? "This ??meeting is being held at a time when the entire global community of nations is focused on our Caribbean neighbour, Haiti, and the tragic events of the past three weeks which were occasioned by the massive earthquake registered at a magnitude of 7.0 and subsequent aftershocks that continue to impact that country…

"The stark and solemn reality for us is that no country in the Caribbean can consider itself immune to such occurrences… Of course, the earth tremor of November 29, 2007, gave [us a] timely reminder of our own vulnerability… Given our vulnerability to such events as a region and as a nation, the question we must continue to ask is, what precautions against such hazards really lie within our power," Mr. Stuart opined.

He described the DEOs as critical first responders in a crisis and pledged his Ministry’s support to addressing any difficulties they faced.??

There are 30 established DEOs, 21 of which are active, four have been classified as dormant, two are in transition and the remaining three are inactive.


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