JIS News

Twenty-five schools mainly from the Kingston area have been invited to participate in an Earthquake Open Day, to be held at Fort Charles in Port Royal on Wednesday, January 14.
The activities for the Day will feature exhibits from several stakeholders and companies and talks by representatives of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and several of its partner agencies, such as the Earthquake Unit and the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB). In particular, they will speak to the issue of earthquake awareness and what children and teachers should and should not do in the event of an earthquake.
“I remember when we had the earthquake in 1993, there were incidents where teachers themselves were frightened as a result of the tremor and subsequently, they did not take their appropriate positions, which in itself had implications for the safety of some of our children,” Training Manager at the ODPEM, Cheryl Nicholas recalled at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ session yesterday (January 8).
“So we are saying, bring the children out, take them to the Open Day, find out from the ODPEM what they can do as institutions to ensure that if an earthquake happens while children are at school they would have already been equipped with the requisite information to ensure that casualties are minimised, if not eliminated entirely,” she suggested.
The Open Day forms part of activities to mark Earthquake Awareness Week, which will be observed from January 11-17, under the theme, “Earthquakes Have No Season: Do Your Part .Be Earthquake Smart!”
Usually, Earthquake Awareness Week is observed in January, because two of the significant earthquakes in the country’s history occurred in this month – a moderate one on January 13, 1993 and a strong one on January 14, 1907. However, Miss Nicholas stressed that “what we want the public to realise is that while we have focussed on earthquake awareness this month, earthquakes really have no season, so all year round we should prepare for the eventuality of an earthquake”.
To initiate Earthquake Awareness Week, a National Church Service will be held on Sunday, January 11 at 7:30 a.m., at the historic Kingston Parish Church on King Street in downtown Kingston, and will be carried live on Love 101 FM. Speaking to the significance of this historic venue, Miss Nicholas informed that the Kingston Parish Church, which withstood the January 14, 1907 great earthquake and fire, is a standing symbol of the earthquake risk to Jamaica.
“As we try to drive home the message of earthquake preparedness, considering the theme again that earthquakes really have no season, and given the history of downtown Kingston, certainly in relation to the 1907 earthquake, we want to ensure that Jamaicans are aware of this ever present earthquake threat that we face,” she emphasised.
An earthquake awareness day for businesses is also on the list of activities and will be observed on Thursday, January 15. This is an annual hazard awareness day that specifically targets the earthquake-preparedness needs of businesses. For this day, ODPEM will encourage businesses to take time out to evaluate their level of preparedness and to ensure that staff and clients alike are aware of necessary earthquake preparedness measures.
Activities in this regard include an earthquake simulation drill in the Portmore Town Plaza, in St. Catherine on Thursday, January 15. Twelve business places are expected to participate, along with 12 firefighters, 12 police officers, 10 nurses, and one ambulance. The drill will last 15 to 20 minutes from the time the alarm is sounded to the time everyone is evacuated. However, the entire exercise is expected to last one hour to allow time for emergency workers to complete their “search for survivors”.
In addition to drills in the Kingston and St. Catherine areas, Senior Director, Preparedness and Emergency Operations, ODPEM, Horace Glaze, disclosed that activities were also taking place in other parishes. “We operate through the local authorities and all our programmes at a national level are mirrored by the local authorities, they have their own drills for businesses and schools. This year we want to do a few, full scale simulation exercises to include the St. Elizabeth Infirmary”.
He also informed of a number of exhibitions, which are taking place in public libraries and post offices around the island, as well as two supplements in the major daily newspapers.

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