As Barbadians overcome the shock of this morning’s earth tremor, which forcibly woke many from their slumber, they are being alerted to the need for effective emergency evacuation plans among families and in communities across the country.
This advice comes from Judy Thomas, director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), who at a Press conference at the DEM’s Warrens offices this afternoon disclosed there were no reports of damage caused by the earthquake and assured Barbadians systems were in place to manage emergencies that could be caused by an earthquake or a tsunami.
The US Geological Survey confirmed that the earthquake, magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale, occurred 107 miles north-north-east of Bathsheba and 116 miles north-north-east of Bridgetown at 5:27 a.m at a depth of 20 miles. The tremor was also reportedly felt in some neighbouring islands, including St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guadaloupe and Trinidad, and Venezuela as well.
Thomas said Barbadians should be conscious of the fact that there are no warnings for an earthquake, but should know what procedures should be taken on the individual, community and national level.
She explained that in the event of a tremor and the ground is “shaking under your foot . . . at the time that it is happening, you have to be responsible to do something”.
“I think what is important is the question of the community capacity, because in a real widespread earthquake, it is the communities that have to start to do the actual response. If you have an islandwide situation, where all over Barbados is affected, the immediate impact zones in the communities have got to be expecting the immediate responses.
“This means that we have to build capacity at the local level, and the question of evacuation of the coast when a warning is issued, has to be done at the local level . . . . You have to be very cognizant of what is actually happening and where you are located, whether it was indoors or outdoors. There is the drop, cover and roll concept that we have been telling the population about, where people are supposed to protect themselves with the confines of [their homes]. But the idea is to get outside in an open area where you don’t have anything falling on your because a lot of the injuries and are deaths caused by things that are falling,” she said.
The director added: “I hope that Barbadians will understand and talk among themselves tonight in their families that this is what has happened, and this is where we were, and this is what we do, and this is where the old people get the information, and this is where the children get the information, because the able-bodied persons will then take responsibilities for the protection of their families, and hopefully the emergency management system would kick in after threat has passed.”
Also speaking at the briefing, Hampden Lovell, director of the Meteorological Office, said his office, as the focal point for earthquakes and tsunamis, had only a month ago acquired software that has the ability to monitor and provide early detection of activity in the systems.
But while noting that the system was effective in detecting tremors, he said there was now need for a comprehensive communication system which would inform Barbadians immediately about what was taking place.
“When we send the information to DEM, DEM then gets the information out to these same people, and it is that little lag in there that we are looking to improve on. The overall committee is in the process of looking at a common alerting protocol. In days gone by we actually had something like that. So we are looking to improve on that and we are looking to get a comprehensive system that would do that for most of the hazards,” said Lovell.
Thomas also acknowledged that the media had an important role to play in spreading the word and giving updates about the response process of natural disasters.
“We don’t have a town crier that can get on a pole and spread the word about warnings. We rely heavily on the dissemination of information through the media. This is a partnership in which you play a very key role, and you have to see yourself as one of the instruments of the national system in terms of warning the population,” she said.