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On shaky ground! Don't panic, says safety expert

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Brian Bonitto, Jamaica Editor - Overseas Publications

Picture this. Driving along with family, enjoying the scenic view and suddenly - an earthquake. What do you do?

"I would definitely stop!" said Paul Yapp, owner of Cool Cabs. "But, I don't know what I would do after."

"Don't panic!" That's what the Road Safety Unit's director Kenute Hare suggests. "Panic creates chaos."

The director said in the event of an earthquake, drivers should gradually reduce their speed and pull off to the side of the road.

"This should be done in a safe manner ... No sudden braking, as this could cause collision," he told Automotives.

The executive - whose 17-year-old organisation promotes safety on Jamaica's roadway - had several 'no-nos' for motorists during this potentially deadly situation.

"No stopping on overpasses, underpasses or bridges. Stay clear of trees and downed powerlines and remain in the vehicle until the shaking stops," he said.

Hare explained that motorists should be "cognisant of aftershocks" and "be mindful of falling debris, rocks and landslides".

"And, keep your radio on to receive updates from ODPEM," he continued.

At last week's press conference to launch Earthquake Awareness Week, director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, cited the need for a good communication system to be in place.

"We are working with our communication partners and others to see if we can institute a means of texting as a system of early [tsunami] warning," he said.

Hare said motorists should travel with a first-aid kit in case an emergency arises.

"Sleeping bags, prescription medication, fire extinguishers and flashlights would be handy," he said.

"But, motorists must always remember to keep calm," he added.

Earthquake Awareness Week is being observed in Jamaica from January 13 to 19. This year's theme is 'For safety's sake, be ready for the next earthquake'.