Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Education Ministry, ODPEM conducts Earthquake Awareness Drill at Tivoli Gardens High

Published:Wednesday | March 23, 2016 | 3:51 AMJason Cross
Students of Tivoli Gardens High School slide under desks in their classroom during the Ministry of Education-ODPEM earthquake awareness initiative yesterday.
Students exit the school building during the drill.
Nigel Cox, district officer, Jamaica Fire Brigade, discusses safety issues with students of Tivoli Gardens High during the earthquake awareness exercise at the school yesterday.
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STUDENTS AND staff at Tivoli Gardens High School were yesterday taken through an earthquake-preparedness drill that was organised by the Ministry of Education and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).

The students were, months ago, briefed about the necessary steps to take in the event of an earthquake. Their knowledge of earthquake preparedness was put to the test.

Once the alarm sounded, they did as they were told. The instructions were clear – drop, take cover, and hold on to something at the sound of the alarm. Most of the students were responsive. Others responded casually, but cooperated nonetheless.

They stayed under desks – for those who could fit – for approximately 40 seconds. Teachers then grabbed name registers as students emerged from beneath desks to quickly form queues that led to the exits. Those who had classes upstairs made their way downstairs and those who had classes downstairs were led outside.

Teachers were the last to exit because they had to ensure that the classrooms were empty of students. After each individual was safely out, everyone gathered on the football field situated at the front of the school.

On the football field, they maintained their original queues. The various classes were organised in separate areas on the field to facilitate roll calls. The teachers stood at the front of the lines and conducted official roll calls to ensure that each student was present and uninjured.

After it was considered safe to return to the classrooms, the students were led off to resume classes.

During the drill, inspectors from a number of agencies, including ODPEM, the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the Jamaica Defence Force, assessed the proceedings to make sure that students and staff properly adhered to the necessary safety procedures.

NECESSARY TO FUNCTION EFFECTIVELY

Yesterday’s drill was part of a series of earthquake drill activities, organised by the education ministry and ODPEM, which is extended to almost 80 high and primary schools across Kingston, St Thomas, and St Catherine, between yesterday and today.

“We developed a webpage on the ODPEM website and we asked schools to participate by filling out a short application form. We provided them with resource materials to aid them in planning their emergency drills.

“We targeted approximately 70 schools. We are basically synchronising drills across the three parishes, based on a scenario which generated a major earthquake. We are really preparing them to function effectively if and when they are impacted by a major earthquake,” said Sophia Mitchell, ODPEM’s regional coordinator for the eastern division.

Director of safety and security in schools in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Coleridge Minto, said, “Today, what we saw was the actual execution of an earthquake drill. I believe the drill today is a demonstration of the proper planning and execution, and it puts us in a position, as an institution, to see where the gaps are and where we need to strengthen for future drills across educational institutions. Today was a tremendous success.

“There are some observations made by ODPEM which we will look at to see how we can strengthen future drills. There are plans to expand this into the other regions. We are now at regions one, two and six. The other regions – three, four and five – will benefit later on as we continue the plans with ODPEM,” Minto said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com