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JIS News

With the nation’s schools set to observe Earthquake Preparedness Day on January 17, the Ministry of Education and Youth is assuring parents that school buildings are safe and will withstand tremors.
“Our buildings are made to withstand quite an impact and . in general, the buildings will substantially remain,” said Lauriston Wilson, Director of Project Management in the Ministry.
Mr. Wilson, who was speaking at a recent JIS News Think Tank, noted that because schools were also designated as shelters in the event of a natural disaster, “they must be so constructed that they will withstand a certain level of impact from either earthquake or hurricanes”.
At the Ministry, he said, “we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our students and children while they are in our buildings. To this end, we put a great deal of emphasis on the design of our buildings to maximize their structural integrity”.
The schools, he said, were designed to meet the Structural Engineers Association of California Code, the Caribbean Uniform Building Code and the National Building Code and were generally of column and beam-type designs with infilled walls. “The walls, we make them non-load-bearing, because in the effect of a powerful earthquake the walls may fall out, but the building as such, will not collapse,” he explained.
In the meantime, he reminded principals in public and private institutions to carry out evacuation drills as often as possible. “Many of our schools have evacuation plans, mainly the high schools, but we have also tried to encourage the primary and all-age schools to have a plan for evacuation, a safe route as to where the children must go,” he said.
For Earthquake Preparedness Day, Mr. Wilson has encouraged schools to work closely with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) to bring to the attention of the students, how to react in the event of an earthquake.
The Ministry, he said, would be hosting exhibitions and the “curriculum has infused in it matters that deal with disaster management and disaster preparedness”.