The piercing sound of a loud siren reverberated across Paddock Road, St Michael today just after 10 a.m., signalling that danger was imminent.
It was a dire warning that a tsunami with its giant waves was rapidly approaching the community, which is home to Government offices, private businesses and residences, as well as the Graydon Sealy Secondary School.
Within moments, students and teachers could be seen making their way out the school’s gates and into the nearby church – Restoration Ministries – in search of higher ground.
Fortunately, today’s event was just a drill, organized by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) to mark World Tsunami Day, which was celebrated under the theme, Protecting Lives, Ensure Sustainability.
Graydon Sealy Principal Beverley Bancroft gave her charges high marks for completing the evacuation in record time.
“No one knew about it today and they evacuated here in about five minutes,” she said, while pointing out that Graydon Sealy was directly in the impact zone for such a catastrophe.
“So we thought it fit to devise a plan, which was coordinated by myself and the safety committee. They came up with the idea to have the drills, not only for the tsunami but also for earthquakes and so on, because we have to get the students out in the event of anything, “she told Barbados TODAY, while emphasizing that today’s drill was not the only one planned.
“We have others lined up for the year,” she added.
Lieutenant Commander John Walcott, who is also a teacher at Graydon Sealy and a member of the school’s planning committee, also gave the students top marks and underscored the importance of the training exercise.
“I’m very pleased with the speed in which they evacuated this morning. The whole thing is to make sure you are prepared, make sure everyone knows what to do. We had sweep teams that would check each floor as they came down. You had specific stairs to use,” he said.
Walcott also explained that the nearby church was chosen as the assembly point because it was further inland and could accommodate the school’s more than 900 students.
DEM Programme Officer Danielle Skeete kept a close eye on the proceedings and she too was encouraged by the way the students and teachers handled the “emergency”.
She stressed that given the rise in seismic activity, it was important that more Barbadians were sensitized about how best to respond to natural disasters.
“In light of the fact that Tsunami Day was celebrated internationally, on November 5th, we thought it would have been a great time to do it. They would have chosen today, so we are now observing how well they do it.
“Practice makes better,” she said, while acknowledging that today’s exercise also involved volunteers from the Roving Response Team, as well as Barbados Citizens Band Association.
Earlier this year, the DEM led similar drills at the Alma Parris School, St Lawrence Primary School, St James Primary School and The Alleyne School.