Emergency personnel went into high alert yesterday, Wednesday, March 27, as part of a simulation exercise involving an earthquake which was recorded just off Portugal and alerts received of a tsunami likely to affect the island.
This scenario set the wheels in motion for Barbados??? participation in the 2014 Caribewave exercise. The island???s emergency forces, including the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Barbados Fire Service, the Barbados Meteorological Services, and the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), pressed into action testing their communication systems to raise the alarm during such incidents and level of preparedness.
Programme Officer at the DEM, Danielle Skeete, explained that the exercise also involved the evacuation of the St. James Primary School which saw 228 students being moved to ???safety???. Overall, she said the students arrived at the Trent???s Great House within 10 minutes of leaving the school under the careful guidance of their teachers.
Principal of the School, June Skeete, said they received the message from the Ministry of Education informing them that a tsunami was expected to affect the island. ???We immediately went into emergency mode after the warning,??? she said, noting that the alarm was sounded through a specific ringing of the school bell to alert those present that there was a tsunami alert.
???The bell rings differently for fire and other emergencies. For the tsunami, it has one blast and stops, then another blast and stops, and then a continuous blast before the hand bells are used,??? Ms. Skeete said.
She added that the School???s emergency committee had developed an emergency plan for disasters such as tsunamis and fires. Teachers, she said, were trained to get the register for their classes, assemble the children and shuttle them to the safe point.
Ms. Skeete noted that the school held a drill every term, and urged other schools to follow suite. ???You must have an emergency plan which is tested to ensure that it will work. You test it to look at the disadvantages and advantages to see what can be done better and if anything can be improved,??? she stated.
Meanwhile, student Azaria Agard explained that she had learnt a lot during the exercise, and that a tsunami was a set of ocean waves caused by a disturbance under the ocean floor.
Fellow student Romario Cumberbatch, urged his school mates to run to higher ground, have an escape route, have a first aid kit and know the natural warning signs of a tsunami.