JIS News

Staff members of key response agencies are being trained in Critical Incidents Stress Management as part of Jamaica’s preparations for a disaster.
The training, which commenced last year focusing on the emergency response team, delves into the aftermath of a traumatic incident, such as handling mass casualties. The psychological effects that can occur are also dealt with. This area is to better equip them to function effectively.
Speaking with JIS News during Earthquake Awareness Week, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse, Senior Medical Officer (SMO) of Health and Director of Special Projects, Emergency Management and Disaster Services said that the continued training would be specifically for persons in the health sector, the Fire Brigade, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force.
“The training is for key response agencies and ministries in the occurrence of a disaster,” she explained.
Meanwhile, the SMO disclosed that “very soon” the Ministry would be expanding the Emergency Medical Services for pre-hospital settings, with the provision of additional sites at the fire services in Linstead and Waterford in St. Catherine, and the hospitals in St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann; and May Pen, Clarendon.
“There will be an increased need for not only ambulances, but also on-going training for the health sector as it pertains to life support courses from the basic to advanced level to deal with cardiac emergencies,” she said.
“We want to ensure that all our doctors and nurses are at least trained in basic life support and those in the critical areas would have the benefit of advance cardiac life support and advance trauma life support,” Dr. Bullock-Ducasse pointed out.
Expounding on the role of the Ministry in the event of a disaster, the SMO said that the Ministry was responsible for emergency medical care and also the restoration of its own routine services, if they were affected.
“We have to deal with all the public health matters in the event of a earthquake. The most important aspect is that we have to recognise that the health sector is expected before, during and after the earthquake to do this,” she said.
She said this meant that some attention had to be paid to the design of the facilities to ensure that “we know how to keep our staff, patients and property safe during the earthquake, and if there is any need for evacuation, to carry that out effectively”.
In outbreak situations relating to earthquakes, the SMO said the Ministry expected to have multiple injuries; deaths mainly from crush related injuries, falling objects and buildings; and also the secondary hazards as currently seen in Asia with the earthquake related tsunamis.
“We know that we have to deal with increased wave action and also fires, so having protected our own facilities and ensured that our staff is able to carry on, we will be able to wait for and handle the patients that will come in to us,” she explained.
Communications, the SMO also noted was vital in handling any disaster while in the field, from the actual site where the emergency occurred, during the transport of the patient, whether by road or air, and also for staff to have direct control of the medical team at the hospital, while they were en-route.
“The actual emergency operations management depends heavily on communications, so we are awaiting the introduction of the new government telecommunications system, which will greatly enhance our work in the event of a disaster,” Dr. Bullock-Ducasse informed.
Commenting on the management of the dead during a disaster, the SMO said that the body of a person killed as a result of a disaster, did not pose a risk of infection to others. “It is really the persons handling the body who have to be careful,” she said.
Earthquake Awareness Week is being observed this week under the theme, ‘Earthquake has no season. Be aware, you can prepare’, with several activities planned to commemorate the occasion.
The observance commemorates the anniversaries of the earthquakes of January 14, 1907 and January 13, 1993.

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