KINGSTON, Jamaica – Representatives of the United States Government, U.S. Southern Command and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) officially broke ground on Tuesday, July 15 to begin construction on two buildings as part of a humanitarian assistance project in Kingston. The location of the construction site is 235 Old Hope Road.
The projects are being funded by the U.S. government and Miami-based U.S. Southern Command at a cost of US$1.06 million (J$76.5 million).
According to U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Brenda LaGrange Johnson, “The buildings are being provided to ODPEM and the government of Jamaica as part of the U.S. Embassy’s continuing partnership with them to improve Jamaica’s efforts to prepare for and recover from man-made or natural disasters.” She noted that members of the embassy’s Military Liaison Office and U.S. Naval Facilities Command have been working with ODPEM, the Ministry of Local Government, for over a year to get the projects off the ground.
The larger project will be the construction of an Emergency Operation Center (EOC), at a cost of US$600,000, which will give ODPEM additional office space and an operations room from which to plan or coordinate disaster relief efforts. The smaller project is a US$462,962 disaster relief warehouse, which can be used to stockpile supplies for distribution in case of an emergency.
U.S Ambassador to Jamaica Brenda LaGrange Johnson breaks ground for the new ODPEM complex with Richard Thompson, Deputy Director General; ODPEM, LTC Erik Valentzas, US Embassy and Senator Warren Newby.
Once the construction is complete, the humanitarian assistance program will also provide warehouse management and emergency operations training for OPDEM members to increase their knowledge in the areas.
Remarking on the timeliness of this initiative, Mr. Ronald Jackson, Director General of the ODPEM, stated that, “Presently, the organization has outgrown its current office space and is finding it difficult to expand operations to adequately function effectively in order to fulfill our mandate.” He further noted that when completed, the new EOC and warehouse will provide modern facilities, infused with cutting edge technology, to offer timely and efficient responses to national disaster events.
An additional disaster relief warehouse will be funded by the U.S. Southern Command and constructed in the Montego Bay area to provide similar storage of disaster relief supplies for the North Coast. This will cost an estimated US$462,962.
The U.S. Southern Command manages a series of humanitarian assistance, disaster preparedness, and disaster response programs in the Caribbean as well as Central and South America. In 2007, Southern Command carried out 100 projects in 26 countries with a budget of US$13.2 million.