JIS News

Preparing for, and facing disasters is customary for the people of Portland as in recent years, several natural disasters including hurricanes, landslides, and flooding, have affected many communities in the parish.
Hence, most Portlanders have become highly sensitised about the damage these events leave in their wake, and the need to be fully prepared for their occurrence in order to mitigate the effects.
As the parish joins with the rest of Jamaica to observe January as Earthquake Awareness Month, one institution which stands out in its preparedness is the Portland High School.
The school, which was founded in 1962, has over the past six years been observing Earthquake Awareness Month with an impressive programme of activities including earthquake drills, special classes to sharpen the awareness of students about earthquakes and what actions should be taken in the event one occurs; and reading material on earthquakes to keep students informed about findings, and other developments in regards to earthquake occurrence and effects.
Speaking to JIS News, Principal of the school Doreen Morrison, said the programme was deliberately designed to empower the students with the most up to date knowledge about natural disasters. “We believe that our students should be fully informed and aware of what is happening around them and our earthquake awareness programme is just one of a number of activities conducted at this school to sharpen the knowledge and preparedness of our students in respect of disasters,” she stated.
The programme, which is conducted in cooperation with the Portland Disaster Committee, and the Portland Fire Brigade, has seen full participation by the secondary, intermediary and the pre-school arms of the institution.
Miss Morrison also believes that the susceptibility of Portland to natural disasters has made the instituting of the programme highly appropriate for the Portland High School. “Portland is one of the disaster zones of the country, so we have to get the students prepared for their occurrence,” she remarked.
The school’s disaster preparedness programme goes well beyond its earthquake awareness month’s activities, as it is given special focus in the curriculum – particularly in the subject areas of geography and social studies.
Meanwhile, Geography teacher, Andrene Benjamin, said this is being done because the institution takes the matter of disaster preparedness and awareness very seriously, and believes students should be fully and constantly informed as they are in other curricular activities.
“In addition to being taught about disasters and what to do when they occur, students are also required to do tests in those areas to ensure that they are fully knowledgeable of what they have been taught,” she stated.
These efforts have earned the school the support and admiration of the Portland Disaster Committee, which has made its input, to ensure the success of the programme.
Acting Portland Disaster Coordinator, Megan Bramwell, thinks the school has distinguished itself by instituting the disaster awareness programme, and is imploring other schools and organisations in Portland to follow suit.
“Portland High has been very impressive in conducting its disaster preparedness programme over the years, and I believe the programme can be implemented just as successfully in other schools,” she notes.
“The knowledge that would be gained about how disasters occur and ways to mitigate their effects would result in far less damage being done when disasters strike,” she said.
So impressed is the Portland Disaster Committee with the programme that it has partnered with the school to present a special earthquake awareness programme today (Jan. 15), which has been designated Earthquake Awareness Day in schools.
The programme, which involved the presentation of educational talks, also featured various aspects of the school’s disaster awareness and prevention programme. The event was one of the major activities staged to celebrate Earthquake Awareness Month in Portland.
“The school has participated in Earthquake Awareness Month activities over the years and has always given an excellent account of itself,” Ms. Bramwell said.
Despite the success of the programme however, staff has expressed the view that there is room for improvement to make it even more successful.
English teacher, Sylvia Phillips, who has been closely associated with the implementation of the programme over the years, gives the assurance that there is a serious commitment to sharpen its effectiveness.
“The programme has been good, but we will work on what needs to be done to effect the changes needed to make it even better,” she asserted.
This type of awareness and competence to handle the various disasters to which Jamaica is susceptible, is the kind of holistic education the country needs to provide for students to give them the empowerment needed to successfully confront the challenges of today’s world, Principal, Doreen Morrison opines.
She expressed confidence that the school is offering education with a difference, which will enable its students to survive in the most difficult circumstances.