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The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is imploring Jamaicans to conduct what it calls ‘hazard hunts’, as part of the preparation for earthquakes.The appeal comes on the eve of Earthquake Awareness Week, which is being observed from January 8 to 13. Director of Information and Training at ODPEM, Nadine Newsome told a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on January 4, that persons should make the time to examine their immediate surroundings, whether it was the home, school, office or church in order to look for objects that could cause injury in the event of an earthquake, and correct them immediately.
For persons not aware of what are considered hazards, Miss Newsome said these include picture frames, ceiling fans, ceilings, tiles, light fixtures such as chandeliers, among other heavy hanging fixtures.
“You really need to look for those hazards and things that can fall and injure you or cause a fire if an earthquake should occur,” she explained.
Cracks and other structural weaknesses evident in the home, office and other facilities should also be corrected. Miss Newsome suggested that wherever possible, furniture, including mirrors and breakfronts, should be bolted down or secured properly. She also cited water heaters as possible hazards if not secured safely.
The Director advised that heavy objects on low shelves should be secured, as well as those in cabinets. “Ensure that these are properly secured,” she urged.
Suggesting more safety tips for homes, Miss Newsome said that flashlights, battery operated radios, fire extinguishers and first aid kits should always be on hand. Regular drills are important, and persons are even being encouraged to conduct nighttime safety drills. Turning off the lights at home and trying to move around in the dark to familiarize oneself with the space can simulate this type of drill.
The Director encouraged persons to have written emergency or safety plans, which outline the procedure and steps to take during and after an earthquake.
“Once you have created this plan, it should not be something that is placed in a cupboard or locked away. Everyone should be aware of it and know where to find it,” she said.
In terms of reducing earthquake damage through mitigation, Miss Newsome explained that the Ministry of Land and Environment and ODPEM continued to stress this point through the development of construction techniques, which are earthquake resistant, and also determining safe sites for building through soil analysis.
Information about vulnerable sites can be obtained from the Mines and Geology Division of the Ministry of Land and Environment or the Geography/Geology Department of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The demolition of unsafe buildings, Miss Newsome noted, was also highlighted by both entities.