Passing Grade for Manchester Earthquake Simulation Exercise


The Disaster Planning and Management Committee of the Manchester Parish Council has received a passing grade for its recent earthquake simulation exercise, with Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for the parish, Claudia Coley, stating that the activity was a success.
The exercise, held on the Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) Mandeville campus, was designed to test the preparedness and response of the parish’s emergency services in the event of an earthquake.
Approximately 700 students and staff of the university, as well as personnel from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the Manchester Fire Department and the Mandeville Police, participated in the hour-long activity.
Miss Coley noted that while there were some challenges, overall the planning was very good. “The only problem that I saw was with the students, who did not respond to the [drill] and took it for a joke. But I think overtime, through public education . about earthquakes, the next time we should have a simulation here at NCU, it should be much better.”
Meanwhile, she said that every sector of the society should put earthquake preparedness measures in place. “Every business within Manchester [and] in Jamaica needs to have earthquake plans. Schools or any kind of organization should [have] some form of preparation for an earthquake. Even at home, persons [should] take steps [and] put plans in place for the family,” she stated.
District Officer of the Mandeville Fire Brigade, Livingston Morgan, also agreed that the simulation went well, noting that the activity not only indicated strong areas of planning, but brought out the weaknesses that need to be addressed.
“I trust and hope that the information garnered . will help the university to put in place a proper earthquake plan and also to look at other areas involving fire, bomb threats and any other information that might help to ensure that the populace of NCU would be safe,” he said.
He noted that, “we will be working closely with the Parish Disaster Coordinator and the management of NCU, to come in and educate the populace . giving information and tips and conducting other drills to ensure that persons get the information [for their] safety”.
The firefighter advised that everyone should take earthquake drills seriously as it was not known when an earthquake might happen. “Jamaica sits in the earthquake belt and in fact, areas in Jamaica have suffered the consequences of earthquakes. We are imploring everyone to take whatever information [they are provided with] seriously.”
Vice President for Student Development at NCU and head of the Critical Incident Management Team, Dr. Gloria Roberts, said she was pleased about the simulation activity. “The preparation and leading up to the exercise was quite traumatic, however we came through and we were quite enthralled to be told that we passed,” she said, while cautioning that “there are areas to which we need to pay attention to, and we will do that even as we plan to improve our emergency situation here at Northern Caribbean University”.
Some of the positives identified by the observers were the level of treatment given to the injured, including the administering of first aid and transferring persons to the hospital.
Areas of weaknesses were: the deficiencies in communication, the inaudibility of the earthquake alarm system, the lack of positive responses from a number of the participants, the lack of intensity in the search for victims, and the methods used in dealing with casualties.
Other activities by the Manchester Disaster Planning and Management Committee to increase awareness about earthquakes included information sessions through local cable stations, an exhibition at the Manchester Parish Library, and visits to schools.

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