With just a few minutes to prepare for the impact of ???tsunami waves??? which were about to strike the island, students and teachers of St. Lawrence Primary began an immediate evacuation of their school???s compound on Wednesday morning.
At around 9:45 a.m. the school, located at St. Lawrence, Christ Church, received word from the Ministry of Education about an impeding ???tsunami???.
Principal of the school, Gloria Bryan, rang three bells, which alerted students that something was amiss. Each class immediately went to its form teacher and awaited instructions for the plan of action.
The 245 students, their teachers and other staff then exited through the back gate of the school and made their way along a path to higher ground at the Ministry of Agriculture at Graeme Hall, arriving at 10:08 a.m.
The evacuation drill formed part of the annual Caribe Wave Exercise, a major feature of Tsunami and Earthquake Smart Month in March. Ms. Bryan said that the tsunami exercise was extremely important, as the students needed to know what to do in the event of a disaster.
???This is the first simulation exercise for a tsunami, but we usually do fire simulations every year. If there is a fire our children will know exactly what to do, they wouldn???t run all over the place.
???This is one exercise that we wanted to do because of the distance of the sea to the school. Our concern is how we can get 245 children between the ages of 3 and 11 away from the school with little notice,??? she explained.
The principal encouraged other schools to conduct tsunami and other disaster drills so that their students could be better educated about and prepared for disasters.
Programme Officer with the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), Danielle Skeete, applauded the principal and staff of the St. Lawrence Primary for the initiative, and encouraged other schools, communities and organisations to carry out similar drills.
???Doing these drills help ??? because we would know how to do things by rote and we wouldn???t have to be worrying or wondering who is going to do what at that particular time. So, it is definitely something that I am pleased that the St. Lawrence School has taken the initiative to do and I am hoping that after seeing them, other schools will do likewise,??? she stated.
In addition, Mrs. Skeete urged Barbadians to educate themselves about tsunamis and other natural disasters. ???The information is out there, so know the warning signs. If you are near a coastline and you happen to see the sea recede an unusual distance, you know that it is time to head further inland or to higher ground.
“If you hear a strange roar ??? there is a possibility that it could be a tsunami. We need people to understand that many have died as a result of tsunamis but thousands have lived to tell the tale, and therefore it is our responsibility as individuals to prepare, to determine how we are going to evacuate and to know where our safe points are,??? she stressed.
The Programme Officer also urged Barbadians to consider joining their District Emergency Organisations (DEOs).?????There are a few things I would like to see improve within the DEOs. We still have an active presence in a lot of the communities, but the problem is that the numbers of the DEOs are decreasing but the age of the average DEO member is increasing.
“Although we cannot discount the institutional knowledge these older people may have, we need younger people on board, who can assist us in evacuating the vulnerable people,??? Mrs. Skeete said.
Overall, despite some kinks which still need to be worked out, the principal and the DEM officials deemed the Caribe Wave exercise at St. Lawrence Primary a success. Above all, they all agree that the students and staff are now more educated about what is required to prepare for a tsunami.