Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Letter of the Day | Build resilience against earthquakes

Published:Saturday | September 23, 2023 | 12:06 AM


On September 21, Jamaica experienced a 4.3 magnitude earthquake as reported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), underscoring the critical need for earthquake preparedness in vulnerable regions. Earthquakes are unpredictable natural phenomena that can have devastating consequences, making it essential for communities to be well-prepared to minimise loss of life and property damage.

The earthquake serves as a reminder that seismic events can occur at any time and in unexpected places. Even moderate earthquakes can cause significant damage to infrastructure and pose risks to public safety. Kingston, with its high-rise buildings and a dense population, is particularly susceptible to the impact of earthquakes, because of its geological composition and urban development. With the increasing construction of high-rise commercial buildings and apartments in Kingston, the necessity for earthquake preparedness is growing ever more crucial.

Preparedness begins with understanding the local seismic risk. Authorities, urban planners, and citizens must collaborate to assess the vulnerability of buildings, infrastructure, and communities. Retrofitting older structures to meet modern seismic standards, and constructing new buildings with earthquake resilience in mind, is crucial.

In addition to structural reinforcement, educating the public on earthquake preparedness is paramount. Community awareness campaigns can inform residents about the appropriate actions to take during and after an earthquake, including ‘drop, cover, and hold on’ drills. Knowledge about evacuation routes, emergency contacts, and safe zones can save lives and reduce injuries.

Moreover, emergency response plans need to be in place and regularly practised, especially in schools which house thousands of students per day. Local authorities should coordinate with emergency services to ensure swift and effective response, and citizens should familiarise themselves with these plans. Regular drills and simulations can help everyone understand their roles and responsibilities during an earthquake.

Ultimately, the recently felt earthquake emphasises the necessity of proactive preparation. Every individual, family, and community must take earthquake preparedness seriously. By working together, staying informed, and taking appropriate actions, we can enhance our collective resilience and mitigate the potential devastation of earthquakes in our seismically vulnerable country.