JIS News

Stakeholders in the tourism sector were yesterday (January 11) educated about tsunami preparedness and management strategies, as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) staged the first of two earthquake/tsunami workshops.
The session, held at Gran Bahia Principe Hotel in Runaway Bay, St. Ann, was part of activities by ODPEM to mark Earthquake Awareness Week from January 9 to 15 under the theme: ‘Learn, Plan, Prepare. the next big quake could be near.’
“The focus of this first workshop is the tourism sector. We are mindful that a lot of our properties are beachfront and one of the questions that is repeatedly asked is, ‘what of the threat of a tsunami?’ hence the decision to have something for the tourism sector with special emphasis on tsunamis and earthquakes,” explained Training Manager at ODPEM, Miss Cheryl Nichols.
She informed that the other workshop will be held on Thursday (Jan. 14) at the downtown Kingston offices of the Ministry of Health and will target those businesses along the waterfront.
According to Miss Nichols, ODPEM is placing emphasis on preparedness as “we are in what is considered to be a return period for a major earthquake, so we are saying the more you know the better prepared you are for when the next big earthquake occurs.”
She noted that while there is no tsunami warning system in place for Jamaica, persons should be guided by the fact that earthquakes of a particular magnitude could generate a tsunami.
She informed that the region is working on a tsunami warning protocol. “The initial document has been put together and some approval has been given up to the level of CARICOM and we are waiting on that final green light,” she stated.
A tsunami is a large often destructive sea wave produced by a submarine earthquake. On December 26, 2004 a massive tsunami, triggered by a magnitude nine tremor, occurred off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, killing more than 150,000 people in a dozen countries bordering the Indian Ocean.
In the meantime, Ms. Nichols is appealing to Jamaicans to take seriously, the issue of disaster preparedness.
“We must get away from the notion that disaster preparedness is ODPEM’s business only. It is everybody’s business, so if we take individual responsibility, we will be better prepared as a nation collectively,” she argued.
Representative of the Runaway Bay Heart Hotel and Training Institute, Monique Stevens, told JIS News that she benefitted tremendously from the training workshop.
“We tend to think that we know all about disaster preparedness at our properties but every time we attend seminars like this we get a little bit more information, so it was very good for me to be here today and of course, we look forward to more of these seminars where we can come and learn a lot,” she said.