Jamaica not disaster-ready

Letters to the Editor

Jamaica not disaster-ready

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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Dear Editor,

Now that the earth-shaking hysteria has subsided, let us get on to serious matters.

Jamaicans are not ready, nor adequately educated on what to do in any major national emergency, be it natural or man-made.

The citizens of Jamaica are in a state of complacency in regard to their duty and responsibility in an extinction-level event, a category-5 hurricane, a magnitude-7 earthquake, or even a gas tanker explosion at any local gas station. Neither motorists nor employees follow the safety rules posted at the pumps: “No smoking, no cellphone use, turn off engines”. We simply do not discern the potential risks. Based on recent occurrences we must now take a concerted approach to national security and public safety education and awareness.

Simple tremors from a very distant earthquake had citizens panicking. The public service announcement (PSA) videos on what to do in the event of an earthquake were the furthest from most people's mind. This is very disturbing and cause for us to restructure the national emergency management system. Broadcasting PSA jingles about potential disasters are entertaining, but the messages fail to resonate with the masses.

The solution: Mandatory safety drills for all public and private institutions. Repeated action develops into habits. Safety is a healthy habit we need to promote in Jamaica.

Occupants/residents of high-rise buildings should be subjected to such drills at least once per month at random, until response times get to acceptable levels, all supported by central emergency alert systems.

“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.” Yes, we will be clumsy at first, but all the preparation for saving lives will help us return to productivity quickly.

Chance truly favours the prepared mind. We can do better. We must do better in getting our people ready!

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