The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Mangment (ODPEM), has finalised a school safety initiative that will be launched, to ensure the safety of children at educational institutions across the island, particularly during an earthquake.
Speaking Friday at an Earthquake Awareness open day, held at the head offices of ODPEM, in Kingston, Acting Director General of the agency, Richard Thompson, said that a need exists to have such a programme at the nation's schools, to both prepare children for emergency situations, and to ensure their immediate safety.
"We have thousands of children in schools every day, and we want to ensure that the schools are safe for them; so, we have a safe school programme, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Education," he said.
The ODPEM official stated that the purpose of exposing children to issues relating to earthquakes (at the open day) is about building their knowledge base, where they can see careers in agencies that are dealing with emergencies.
"They can see how we operate under emergency conditions, and get some knowledge about seismic preparedness. When they go back home, they will impart this knowledge to their parents," he added.
Thompson noted that ODPEM is also doing major work on a programme that has been in place since 2012, to ensure that "every building that will have a lot of persons at any one time ... is structurally sound, so that the persons will be safe, should there be an earthquake".
He said that while science has not reached the stage where it can predict earthquakes, ongoing preparedness is crucial.
Jamaica has recorded four major earthquakes — 1692, which devastated Port Royal; 1907, which damaged Kingston badly; 1957, in Montego Bay; and in 1993.
"We have an average of over-200 tremors per annum (recorded), and the most active part of the island is the eastern section where there is a Fault Zone ... that area is extremely active," Thompson said, adding that the situation requires continuous work to ensure that communities are prepared.
Published By: The Jamaica Observer