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JIS News

The relative calm of the Mannings High School campus in Westmoreland was yesterday (Jan. 31) interrupted by the blare of police sirens and scurry of activity by emergency personnel, as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) carried out an earthquake simulation exercise on the school grounds.
The exercise, which involved more than 2,000 teachers and students from the Savanna-La-Mar institution, was one of 14 such events held over the island to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1907 earthquake, which destroyed Kingston and Port Royal.
As students and teachers hurried from the classrooms in queues for the general assembly area on the large playfield, personnel from the Emergency Medical Service (EMS), the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the Savanna-La-Mar Hospital ambulance service converged on the compound to carry out search and rescue and the treatment of the injuries to “victims.”
Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for Westmoreland, Hilma Tate, told JIS News that the exercise was a good one. “I think this was a really good exercise and that the school, with such a (large) population, would have been able to have a firsthand knowledge of basic evacuation procedures. so that in the event of a real life situation, they would know how to respond,” she stated.
She noted that some shortcomings were identified and a special evaluation session has been planned to “look at all glitches and shortcomings of today’s exercise”. Inspector of Police for Westmoreland, John Shaw, said that the entire simulation exercise was well executed with only a few minor hitches.
“There are however one or two points that must be attended to in preparation for the real life situation. With the evacuation of the students, I think that they did so too casually. There was the need to exercise more urgency in leaving the classrooms. If this was a real life situation, chances are that students could have received more injuries before they leave the classroom. The other area of concern was the availability of more ambulances to convey the injured persons to the hospital,” Inspector Shaw observed.
“Although we had doctors and nurses on location, there was the need for more ambulances . overall, the exercise was well executed and we need more of this so that people can be more sensitized and prepared for the real life situation,” Inspector Shaw told JIS News.
Principal of the Mannings High School, Gloria Wagstaff also said that the exercise went fairly well, notwithstanding a few shortfalls and weaknesses. “Generally though, we see this as a very good learning exercise and trust that the shortfalls will be dealt with as we continue to prepare for such disasters,” Ms. Wagstaff told JIS News.
ODPEM Observer, Maceo Sibbles, has endorsed the exercise as a success and one of the better ones he had observed.
The island wide simulation exercise was held under the theme: ‘Prepare now, don’t wait, be ready for the next earthquake.”