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Jamaica Prepares for Hurricane Matthew


The United States has numerous plans in place when dealing with a major natural disaster event. Emergency management offices exist in local and state level governments while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assists when local and state emergency management resources are overwhelmed. The U.S. system is not perfect, but it is an excellent managerial system to making sure the government effectively handles emergencies before they become catastrophes of epic proportions.  

Other countries handle emergencies in different ways. Some will have robust emergency management offices and plans, while others may not have the budget or resources for impressive disaster management designs. Jamaica's Prime Minister is poised for what will come if and when Hurricane Matthew makes landfall on their beautiful Caribbean island.

Hurricane Matthew Projections

Hurricane Matthew will be making landfall on several islands in the Caribbean during this first week of October. It has been a tremendous concern for the international governments that it is projected to impact.

Depending on the level of destruction, it can be difficult for a government entity to recover quickly from a major incident. Currently a category 4 hurricane, storm projections show Matthew hitting Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. Toward the end of the week, it could potentially hit Florida, and a hurricane watch is in effect in the central Bahamas.

Category 4 hurricanes are tremendous storms and are quite concerning for the amount of damage they can cause.

Statements about Jamaica’s Preparedness

With Jamaica in the path of Hurricane Matthew, Michael Spears of NBC reported that Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, visited some of the most vulnerable areas on the island over the weekend. He also reported that Jamaica has prepositioned equipment and manpower for the impending storm, important measures for the country to take. 

As emergency management professionals know, it is tremendously important to have good disaster management plans in place as it can make recovery efforts vastly easier. Spears also reported that Holness said, “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of recovery" - a statement many emergency management professionals can relate to.

Assistance Already in Place from UNICEF

UNICEF [url link="http://www.unicef.org/jamaica/emergencies.html" title="lists on their website"] that because Jamaica can be prone to natural disasters based on its location, they are often waiting to deliver food and water to the area if an emergency is said to occur. UNICEF also explains that the “Government of Jamaica and the Red Cross partners with several organizations to make sure the people of Jamaica have what they need during a disaster." 

According to UNICEF, there have also been projects designed to strengthen the emergency response in Jamaica, including establishing Community Response Teams and training individuals to set up shelters in the local schools. These measures will certainly help Jamaica if their resources are overwhelmed - a reality that could come to fruition considering the power of Hurricane Matthew.

Emergencies Test the System

While emergencies are always concerning, especially the advent of a major storm, they do test the system and tell us where the vulnerabilities in emergency response exist. As Hurricane Matthew makes landfall in Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti, emergency response systems will be tested. Lessons learned will emerge as analysts review the after-action reports to make decisions for improved preparedness plans in the future.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.