The quiet of the Primary and Infant School in Trelawny was on Wednesday (Jan.14) broken by the blast of sirens from emergency vehicles attached to the Trelawny Fire Station, the Falmouth Hospital, and the Police Department.
As the vehicles descended on the school compound, the startled children were quickly but orderly ushered from their classrooms into the school yard. They were to participate in an earthquake evacuation drill, which would test the school’s and the parish’s readiness for such an occurrence.
A scene was set, depicting destruction of great magnitude, as a result of an apparent massive earthquake. Sections of the school were damaged or destroyed and many students were injured, some seriously.
The exercise, organised by the Trelawny arm of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), in collaboration with supporting agencies, formed part of activities being carried out nationally from January 11 to 17, to mark Earthquake Awareness Week.
Speaking to JIS News after the exercise, Medical Officer of Health for Trelawny, Dr. Marcia Johnson-Campbell, said that the drill was beneficial in testing the capabilities of the relevant agencies to respond during a disaster.
Emergency Medical Technicians attend to ‘injured’ students during an Earthquake Awareness Week drill at the Granville All-age School in Trelawny yesterday (Jan. 14).
“We need, as a parish, to create more exercises like this and we need to push for staff to be trained in mass casualty management and incident command, to ensure that systems are put in place that will allow for more effective response from the various entities,” she stated.
Dr. Johnson-Campbell, who is also Coordinator of the Trelawny Health Disaster Committee, said that while the parish does not have all the resources that are required during an emergency, “certainly, … all attempts would be made to do the best that we can, with the given resources. Efforts are therefore being made to ensure that our capacity is at the accepted levels”.
Disaster Coordinator for the parish, Dion Hylton-Lewis, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the exercise and commended all the participating agencies.
The evacuation drill, she said, was very useful as “it will guide us as to the way forward. We will be making every effort to have exercises like these more often, so that citizens can be further educated for quicker and more effective response in the face of any such disaster.”
Principal of the Granville Primary and Infant School, Ivanhoe Gordon, said he was pleased that his institution was chosen for the drill, noting that the entire school population benefitted immensely from the exercise.
“This was for us, an essential educational exercise, and all the participating agencies did very well in how they responded. With this replicated across the country, our children and adults alike, will be further sensitised on how to mitigate against such disasters,” Mr. Gordon stated.