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Earthquake drills could save lives - Lyew Ayee

Published:Wednesday | October 11, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Buildings like this dilapidated one on Sutton Street in downtown Kingston could pose a major threat if the island is hit by a major earthquake.

Head of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute of the University of the West Indies, Dr Parris Lyew Ayee, has again warned that preparedness at the policy and individual levels will determine the severity of the damage Jamaica encounters, should an major earthquake rocks the island.

In the wake of two massive earthquakes which claimed hundreds of lives in Mexico, Lyew Ayee argued that what could make the difference in Jamaica would be the level of sensitisation and seriousness from citizens and policymakers.

"A few hours before the earthquake last month in Mexico, they had an earthquake drill. The magnitude of the earthquake (Mexico) was equivalent to Haiti in 2010, more than 300 people died in Mexico, but how many persons died in Haiti? We have to understand that there were differences in outcomes because of preparedness," said Lyew Ayee.

"Preparedness can be on an individual basis or a policy basis. On a policy basis, you talk about anything ranging from building codes to mandatory earthquake drills to evacuation planning and activities. All of those things are key.

"On an individual basis, you need to be serious because the Government teaches you through school what can happen, it doesn't meant that you just forget about it, you actually need to be serious about it," argued Lyew Ayee.

He added: "The reality is that these things should not be too far from your consciousness. In the case of Jamaica, these things are not an impossibility, and what we need to do in terms of preparedness is be serious about our building codes, our structural assessment procedures, so bridges are going to be key."

Lyew Ayee said while he would not paint a 'doom and gloom' picture for Portmore, he admitted that the St Catherine-based community was high on his list of areas of concern.

"My concern is with Portmore and the concern is not the usual blame (the developer) or developers. These developers built a house with a certain square footage with a certain amount of land. When people decide to build three floors up, they increase in the number of pressure per square inch, on the same amount of land which is reclaimed land, which is prone to liquefaction," said Lyew Ayee.

"I would not say that Portmore is doomed. The outcome is to be determined. I don't want to cause panic but the reality is that we don't know," he added.



What to do during an earthquake


If indoors


Drop to the ground; take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and hold on until the shaking stops. If there isn't a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.

Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.

Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.

Do not use a doorway except if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.

Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking.

Do not use the elevators.


If outdoors


Stay there until the shaking stops.

Move away from buildings, street lights, and utility wires.

The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls.


If you are in a moving vehicle


Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.

Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.