Earthquake Awareness month is January but preparing and planning for an earthquake is an unending process. So it is practical to always have a plan of actions to be taken in order to respond effectively and recover quickly from the impacts of an earthquake.
In light of this, the St. Catherine Parish Council, through the Disaster Management Committee, input from the Earthquake Unit and Parish Coordinator for Disaster Services, Ms. Patricia Lewis hosted a two-day workshop on Wednesday, May 25 and Thursday May 26 respectively. The workshop was held in the St. Catherine Parish Council Chamber, Emancipation Square, Spanish Town. The aim of which was to discuss the Earthquake Plan for the parish.
In her overview of the workshop, ODPEMs Eastern Regional Coordinator Sophia Mitchell was keen to point out that the workshop was not an ODPEM or a Parish Council thing. It is about ensuring complete sensitization, and the response garnered will be community-based and the information will be disseminated right across the board.
She made mention of the Chile, Japan and Haiti experiences. “The horror and the catastrophe subsequent to those earthquakes will always reside in our minds. And even though we would not want to have experiences as those in Jamaica, it is possible that we can so we still have to be prepared for worst case scenarios”. In effect, the workshop is important and so too is the Earthquake Plan especially as it relates to the overall preparedness for the parish of St. Catherine.
Geographically, and in terms of our location, Jamaica is very susceptible to earthquakes. She made mention of a tabletop workshop held in 2010 where an earthquake contingency plan for the parish was developed. However, the information coming out of that was inadequate and is now in need of updating, hence the need for this workshop.
A road map for earthquakes was also developed by ODPEM in 2012. This was done with the assistance of UNDP. This workshop will be a part of that overall road map in terms of how the country responds to earthquakes. For St. Catherine much data has not been found as was the case for Kingston and St. Andrew but in the event there is no information it will have to be created so that the necessary plans can be made.
The overarching question for this workshop is "what if" and how would we as agency representatives respond. Coming out of this workshop, importantly, we want to have a workable, realistic disaster plan for the parish of St. Catherine, one that can be tested periodically. It is the hope that we can also have more earthquake drills and more sensitization because public education is key in this process.
Communities she said need to be mobilized and if communities need to be mobilized they need to know the hazards of what can happen and how they will be called upon to respond. It is our hope then, that throughout this workshop, fruitful discussions will be had that in the end is beneficial to the plan.
Over nineteen agencies, groups and organizations were represented at the workshop on both days, with over thirty persons in attendance altogether.
Moderator for both days was Ms. Stephanie Cameron, Project Manager, Local Sustainable Development Plan (LSDP)