Are we prepared for the rumbling beneath?
As a teacher of Geography and a proud citizen of Jamaica, I am deeply concerned about the level of awareness among Jamaicans regarding earthquakes.
Located near the northern edge of the Caribbean plate, Jamaica is vulnerable to seismic activities. While the country experiences a significant number of earthquakes each year, most go unnoticed by the average citizen.
Jamaica’s geographic location places it right on the edge of the Caribbean tectonic plate, which is part of the larger boundary where the North American and South American plates converge. This geological arrangement makes the island prone to seismic activities. The shifting of these tectonic plates can result in earthquakes, which can range from mild tremors to devastating shocks. The historical record of earthquakes in Jamaica reinforces the need for vigilance and preparedness.
One of the most significant issues in Jamaica is the tendency to underestimate the severity of earthquakes due to a lack of awareness and the frequency of small, unfelt tremors. While we may not experience the same frequency of catastrophic earthquakes as some other countries on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the potential for a major seismic event remains. It is crucial to recognise that even though minor quakes occur frequently, they can serve as a warning sign of more significant and destructive ones.
Earthquake drills are a fundamental aspect of earthquake preparedness. These drills help individuals and communities understand how to respond effectively in the event of an earthquake. However, in Jamaica, drills are not executed as regularly as they should be. When they are conducted, they are often viewed as brief respites from daily work or school routines. This relaxed attitude can be detrimental, as it fails to prepare individuals to respond quickly and correctly during a real seismic event.
The Ministry of Education recommends having at least one earthquake drill per term in schools. Unfortunately, many schools have ignored this crucial recommendation. It is essential for educational institutions to take these drills seriously and not see them as inconveniences. Being prepared for an earthquake can save lives and minimise damage to property.
While Jamaica is well-known for its hurricane preparedness, earthquakes often take a back seat. This discrepancy is surprising given that the island experiences a higher frequency of earthquakes compared to major hurricanes. In recent years, hurricanes like Gilbert and Ivan have caused significant destruction in Jamaica, prompting robust hurricane preparedness. However, the same level of preparedness and awareness is needed for earthquakes.
The level of awareness among Jamaican citizens regarding earthquakes needs significant improvement. The geographical location of Jamaica near the Caribbean plate’s northern edge places the country at risk for seismic activities. It is essential for Jamaicans to take earthquakes seriously, just as they do hurricanes, and prioritise earthquake drills and preparedness.
By raising awareness and educating the public about the risks, Jamaica can better prepare for potential seismic events and minimise the impact on lives and infrastructure.
Earthquake preparedness is not just the responsibility of the Government and educational institutions, it is a collective duty that every citizen should embrace.
Mikhail A Graham