The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) staged a successful earthquake and tsunami evacuation exercise today (February 8) in the fishing community of Old Harbour Bay in St. Catherine.
The exercise, which encompassed the campuses of the Old Harbour Primary and High schools (Feb. 8), tested the local warning, mobilisation, and evacuation procedures.
Senior Director for Emergency Preparedness and Operations at ODPEM, Horace Glaze, told JIS News that he was pleased with the outcome of the drill, its execution, and the participation of the residents.
“I think we really got out of it what we wanted. We saw the mobilisation of the community,” he said, informing that the community response teams were observed going around with their bull horns and warning residents of the danger, and students queuing for an orderly, but swift evacuation.
Mr. Glaze said the exercise was also instructive in identifying areas that need to be addressed chief among them is the communication system.
“I saw where it took some time from when the heads of agencies got the message to when it was sent out to the community level, as well as the instruments used (the bell and siren). They were effective but their reach goes only so far, so what we need to do now is adopt more technology to get it out to a wider reach in the community,” he stated. He said that the process needs to be improved, as in the event of a tsunami, persons would have only about 20 minutes to evacuate before the waves came to shore.
Mr. Glaze said there is also need to identify an area, where residents once evacuated, can be accommodated. “We now need to identify an area outside of the town of Old Harbour that is safe and clear of the reach of a tsunami, where we can move people to in the event of an actual tsunami, a high ground. So that is one of the things we’ll have to discuss at the de-briefing workshop,” he said.
The debriefing will be held on Thursday (Feb. 9) at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, where ODPEM and its stakeholders will examine the outcomes of the exercise and iron out strategies to be adopted in making the process smoother.
Among the agencies that participated in today’s drill were Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Jamaica Fire Brigade, Ministry of Education, Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), and Jamaica Public Service (JPS).
By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS PRO