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Testing natural disaster readiness


CARLOS ATWELL, ​[email protected]

Testing natural disaster readiness

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An earthquake and the resulting tsunami devastated Barbados yesterday, but many Barbadians did not seem to know about it.

As part of the annual tsunami exercise Caribe Wave, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) in Warrens, St Michael, had largely been “evacuated” as it had been compromised during the natural disaster. Instead, the communications aspect had been moved to the Arch Hall Fire Academy in St Thomas, while a control team stayed behind.

“We are now in the warning stage where people are moving to higher ground. We chose Arch Hall for relocation as there is already communications equipment there, plus it’s on higher ground,” said Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency operations specialist retired Brigadier General Earl Arthurs.

He said, while the Barbados Government Information Service had been broadcasting alerts, there was no wish to inadvertently cause any panic, so the operation was not fully showcased.

In Holetown, students and business houses participated in the exercise, a simulation where an 8.3 magnitude earthquake triggered tsunami waves of 30.6 metres. Students and teachers of the St James Primary School assembled at Morgan’s Hill under the supervision of emergency officials from the DEM, Roving Response Team, Fire Service and more.

Programme officer at the DEM, Danielle Skeete, said the exercise was done to test protocols and familiarise the students with the proper procedure in the event of a real emergency, adding it was a success.

She was pleased with how the exercises went, but wanted more organisations to take part.

In addition, the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS) was conducting its inaugural damage assessment workshop in nearby Baobab Towers. While not directly related to Caribe Wave, the exercise was one that would prove vital should a natural disaster strike.

BSS senior field investigator Wayne Davis said the workshop included civil servants who could then become damage assessors.

“This is the first such workshop of its kind involving all Government departments. We want to train civil servants to be damage assessment officers who can collect data after an emergency. The BSS does not only collect data from homes, but also businesses, schools and more, and the United Nations has asked all associated countries to come up with stats for any major damage that impacts their society and come up with a cost ratio,” he said.

Following the morning briefing session, the assembled civil servants broke off into seven groups and travelled around the Warrens, Jackson and Friendship Terrace areas, assessing the “damage”. As it was all a training simulation, there was no need to alert the public. (CA)

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