be preparedOne week before the official start of the 2013 Hurricane season, the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) is looking to bring awareness about other adverse natural weather events which could affect the island.

Steve Joseph of the Office of Disaster Management said “Hazard Awareness week”, which began on Monday, is being observed under the theme:”Planning to plan is not a plan”.

“Planning we believe is an important element of preparedness,” he said. “We are hoping this week to really raise awareness on the importance of completing a plan and we have templates as to what a family plan should look like, what a community disaster plan should look like and guiding businesses as well in terms of their business continuity plans”.

Joseph added that throughout the week all sectors of the community will be encouraged to put effective disaster management plans in place.

“We feel the importance of bringing to focus the need for families to plan, for schools to have their emergency plans done, for communities to either review their existing plans or to ensure that they have completed plans,” Joseph stressed.

He pointed out that plans should not just be developed but excercised. “We want to ensure that the plan doesn’t just get developed and placed on a shelf but it is actually exercised to identify gaps and weaknesses and hopefully through an evaluation and review process those plans would be strengthened to ensure that the community is better prepared,” Joseph stated.

This is the fourth year that Hazard Awareness Week is being observed in Dominica. Joseph confirmed that the Office of Disaster Management has been actively working with the communities and schools in ensuring that proper  emergency plans are developed.

“We held a workshop for principals last month, guided with assistance from USAID/OFDA introducing the importance of safe schools,” Joseph stated. “Schools must look into having an emergency plan in place. The workshop also looked at evacuation routes to ensure that there are clear assembly points, and tested the school’s response if it were to be impacted by an earthquake to ensure that there is an effective response system which the school, principal, staff and even parents are aware of ”.

Joseph said his office has also been looking at having partnerships between schools and communities.

“Schools are located in communities and community leaders and operatives must be concerned about all the elements of the community, the elderly, the vulnerable people, the persons that will need shelters, people with homes that cannot withstand hurricanes,” he stated.

During Hazard Awareness Week the Office of Disaster Management will also impress on various sectors within the community to view disaster management as a development issue, according to Joseph.