NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (May 30, 2013) — Students at the Elizabeth Pemberton Primary School at Cole Hill got some impromptu advice on the importance of taking instructions seriously in the event of a disaster on May 27, 2013 from a Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) official, at the end of a simulation exercise in which they were evacuated from a collapsed building during an earthquake.
Emergency Operations Specialist Retired Brigadier General Earl Arthurs at CDEMA based in Barbados, was on Nevis to assess more than 100 members of the Community Disaster Response Team, recent graduates from the “Building Resilience to Natural Hazards One Community at a Time” programme as they applied their new knowledge and skills during various simulations of earthquake, fire and traffic accident related disasters.
“If you have an earthquake… if people stay inside and the building collapses on them then they have a disaster on their hands because it kills people or they trap people. So it’s important for you to know how to evacuate and you have to do it in an orderly way. Children are not supposed to just run out and make a lot of noise and laugh and take this thing like a joke. Even though it’s not for real, you have to follow instructions, pay attention, you have to be orderly.
“This is a serious thing. They say practise makes perfect, so if you want to make sure you save lives during the disaster, then you have to practise during the non-crisis time to do it properly, so that when a disaster comes you do it instinctively,” he urged.
Mr. Arthurs also told the students that disaster could take several forms and explained the natural progression from hazards to disasters.
“We have a lot of different disasters that could happen in St. Kitts and Nevis, some of these we call hazards because the hazard could turn into an emergency if you don’t know how to respond adequately. If you get the emergency out of control or if you lose control, you could end up with a disaster on your hands. So you have three levels.
“You have the hazard, then if you cannot handle it properly it turns into an emergency and if that gets out of control it turns into a disaster,” he said.
According to Mr. Arthurs, CDEMA was responsible for 18 Caribbean islands and countries which included St. Kits and Nevis. He said he was charged with moving through those territories to ensure that their disaster plans were good, that they were practised so that in the event of a disaster they would be able to respond adequately.
He was accompanied by CDEMA’s Community Disaster Planning Specialist Mrs. Claudine Roberts.