JIS News

Administrative staff and visitors at the St. Catherine Parish Council’s office in Spanish Town participated in an Earthquake drill on Friday, January 14 as part of activities to observe Earthquake Awareness Week from January 9 to 15.
The event was organised by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in collaboration with the Spanish Town Fire Department.
At approximately 3:00 p.m., staff members, who had no knowledge of the exercise, were asked, through the intercom system, to evacuate the building. After they had left it, under the instructions of safety monitors, a team of fire fighters from the Spanish Town Fire Department conducted a search and rescue operation and assisted two “injured” persons who were trapped in the building.
Addressing staff members and curious onlookers in front of the Council’s office, Assistant Superintendent Dorrell McKennis, who is in charge of the Fire Prevention Division in St. Catherine, explained that disasters occurred without any warning and at anytime.
“Whatever you have learnt here today, I hope that you would be prepared if an earthquake occurs,” she said, adding that fire fighters were important to the exercise because a fire was likely whenever there was an earthquake.
The Assistant Superintendent gave tips on what should and should not be done in the event of an earthquake. She advised the Council to prepare a first-aid kit equipped with supplies to deal with minor injuries after a disaster.
In an interview with JIS News Acting Parish Disaster Co-ordinator, Patricia Lewis said the drill was held to sensitise staff on how they should respond in the event of an earthquake.
“I think the staff responded well. They were calm and we’re only hoping that should an earthquake or fire occur they would respond in the same way,” she said, adding that visitors to the building had also complied with the instructions after the alarm was raised for persons to evacuate.
According to Ms. Lewis, a drill has not been held at the office for “quite some time” and she hoped that one could be done at least twice per year.
Meanwhile, Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Raymoth Notice told JIS News that the drill was necessary because the Council’s office, one of the historical buildings in the Emancipation Square in Spanish Town, was ” a fire hazard.”
“If a fire should occur, we’re in serious danger of losing not only the historical site but losing lives, so, it is important that the drill be looked at very seriously and practised on a regular basis,” he stated.
Dr. Notice said although the Council may not always be prepared for a disaster, the resources that were available were fully utilised by the committed staff. He explained that the Council had a disaster committee that included the Jamaica Public Service Company, the Police, the St. Catherine Health Department and the Spanish Town Fire Department.
Before any predicted disaster the committee meets to make decisions on what action is to be taken.