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Representatives of Corporate Jamaica were on Thursday (January 14) provided with information on disaster awareness and planning during an Earthquake/Tsunami Workshop organised by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
The seminar, held at the Ministry of Health, King Street, downtown Kingston provided disaster risk management education for members of the downtown Kingston business district deemed to be vulnerable to tsunamis.
Though the workshop was planned months before Tuesday’s devastating earthquake in Haiti and the subsequent tsunami watch for sections of the Caribbean, Training Officer at ODPEM, Cheryl Nichols, said the disaster provided a sad but pertinent backdrop to the workshop.
She said it highlighted the need for individuals in the business community to recognise the gravity of the situation, and how critical it is to have effective earthquake/tsunami plans in place.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to be using Haiti as an example, it is too hard a lesson to learn, too difficult a situation, but we have to use this to channel how we move forward as a country,” Miss Nichols pointed out.
“If what we saw in Haiti was in the Jamaican situation, roads we saw were totally destroyed, buildings collapsed and even if roads were there they were no longer accessible: Do our organisations have the wherewithal to accommodate our employees overnight or multiple nights should we have a similar situation?” She asked.
Miss Nichols said these are just some of the many critical details that businesses need to consider when implementing an earthquake plan.
She said business organisations also need to look at putting alternative health and medical plans in place, in the event that major hospitals and other medical facilities are damaged, as was the case in Haiti.
“We have to plan for worse case scenarios, because the more we plan for the worse cases the better prepared we are for those that are less significant,” she stated.
Miss Nichols said individuals must know who is responsible for what in the event of an emergency, the resources that are available and the location of safe zones in the workplace. She also advised that a critical second step, having written a disaster plan, is to conduct hazard identification.
“Where are the hazards in your workplace? Far too often, we (ODPEM) go into organisations for assessments and see a number of safety hazards,” she said.
Miss Nichols also said that individuals must remain vigilant and seek to implement safety measures, as studies show that Jamaica is “overdue” a major earthquake. She informed that some sections of the island are deemed more vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis than others.
“A good 80 per cent of earthquake activity that happens in Jamaica on a yearly basis, happens in the eastern end, so we really can’t go into complacency,” she warned.
She noted that it was the responsibility of individuals to ensure their preparedness and safety, and not Government agencies.
“ODPEM has a responsibility to educate, but ODPEM cannot make the nation prepared. Jamaica is as prepared as individuals are, and your company is as prepared as you the employees make it,” she explained.
Representative of the Earthquake Unit, Carlene Black, pointed out that, in the case of a tsunami, there is no warning time.
“If we were to have a very large earthquake, let’s say one similar to Haiti, because the focus of the earthquake would probably be on land or very close to shore, by the time we have figured out how big the earthquake is, the tsunami would have already been on its way, ” she explained.
It is, therefore, critical for every Jamaican to have a proper earthquake/tsunami emergency plan, not just at work but also at home, she cautioned.
“Know where to go, who to go to, know the route and how you will get there,” she said.
ODPEM has relocated from 12 Camp Road to 2-4 Haining Road, New Kingston. The new telephone numbers are: 908-2944-5 or 754-3329.