PM wants quick passage of revised building code

PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller says there is urgent need for the revised building codes and no-building zone legislation to be completed as quickly as possible.

The building legislation will empower the Government to prevent construction in disaster-risk areas and will also include compulsory evacuation where there is imminent danger.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller listens to a comment from Minister of Local Government and Community Development Noel Arscott during this week’s National Disaster Committee meeting at Jamaica House. (PHOTO: JIS)

The prime minister, who was addressing the National Disaster Committee meeting at Jamaica House this week, said it was critical that the statute is in place soon, so that there can be some order in the way people build and where they build.

“We cannot have people building everywhere and anywhere and then put pressure on the Government,” she said.

“We need to push this one (the building legislation) as fast as we can, and identify with the local authorities, the no-building zone. We need to do this. I think this is critical because too many persons are getting away with building anywhere,” Simpson Miller added.

“The local authorities do have a responsibility and should ensure that citizens adhere to the laws of the country in terms of the building codes, but we need to come up with something official now that will prevent anyone from trying to go on a gully bank or somewhere near a gully to build anything at all,” she stated.

Simpson Miller pointed out that it is the most vulnerable in the society who are always the worst affected in times of disaster, and has instructed the ministries of labour and social security and local government to devise a plan to deal with these persons, including those living on the streets.

In the meantime, she commended the various ministries, agencies and entities such as the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), for their quick response after Hurricane Sandy and urged them to maintain a state of preparedness during the 2013 season.

Acting Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Richard Thompson, pointed out that between 2000 and 2012, the country suffered some $14 billion in losses due to disaster, which is approximately 2.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

He said that the effect of Hurricane Sandy on the country amounted to $9.7 billion in total damage.

“This has shown the need to place significant effort on disaster preparedness mechanisms and to really look at the fact that disaster is tied to development and that no country can progress in terms of socio and economic growth, if we constantly have to have repairs and recovery whenever we are hit by a system. This underpins the need to improve mitigation measures if we are to have a safe, productive and growing economy,” Thompson said.

He reported that the ODPEM has established a Disaster Risk Reduction Committee that is examining legislation to deal with the no build zones. The agency is also looking at building disaster resilience at the community level to strengthen the national response.

Thompson said there have been island-wide assessments of shelters; 44 micro mitigation projects implemented; and an upgrade of the telecommunications capability with the launch of the National Emergency Affiliated Radio Systems, where 100 persons have been trained in the use of emergency radios as part of the agency’s preparedness.

The meeting of the National Disaster Committee, which came at the start of the 2013 Hurricane Season, included reports from several other agencies and ministries including the: Meteorological Service; Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing; Ministry of Labour and Social Security; National Works Agency; Ministry of Health; Jamaica Fire Brigade; National Solid Waste Management Authority and Jamaica Red Cross.