By Theresa Goodwin
Some of the tiny tots at the Greenbay Primary School went scampering without shoes, some with either one slipper or just socks covering their little feet when the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP.CAP) went off signalling the start of a tsunami evacuation exercise.
Seemingly well versed on the procedures to follow, the tiny kindergarteners ran out of the class forming a human chain, and clutching a rope to keep them in line as they made their way to the assembly point on the top of Greenbay Hill.
Following closely behind were students from higher levels, teachers and others who helped ensure that everyone was accounted for.
While the evacuation from the school to the assembly point tested the fitness level of some members of the faculty, the entire process was completed in under 10 minutes.
The school has an enrolment of just over 300 students, most of whom participated in the drill.
Deputy Principal Claudina Charles told Observer she was pleased with the performance of the youngsters who now have knowledge of what to do in the event of a tsunami.
“It is important for students to get the opportunity to practice in this form of activity, so in case there is an actual disaster they will be ready because they would have had enough practice,” Richards said.
One male student said initially he was a bit nervous because he did not hear when the alarm went off and was therefore not clear on the directive.
Another male student, Deshawn Harris, said the exercise did not come as a surprise to him because he had participated in similar ones before. A female student, Jennifer, said the experience was a bit tiring but beneficial.
The annual ‘Carib Wave’ tsunami exercise was designed to test aspects of tsunami readiness in Antigua and Barbuda and throughout the rest of the region.
It was also conducted to test the effectiveness of the CAP.CAP app which members of the public were asked to download on their smartphones and other devices in order to receive alerts.
The activity was conducted by the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, associated with UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) is the local implementing agency and, according to Deputy Director Sherrod James, the activity was well attended and supported.
He explained that several schools, members of the public and civil society, plus volunteers responded positively compared to previous years which saw low levels of participation.
“We are seeing an improvement, we are also seeing more ownership by the volunteers who came together to actually manage the exercise, which is one of the things that we have been aiming for in developing resilience,” James said.
He added that participation in these exercises is crucial to future planning.
According to a statement from NODS, the threat of tsunamis to the region is real and there have been significant efforts by disaster personnel to enhance tsunami preparedness in Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the region.
Several areas in Antigua have been declared tsunami ready through the UNESCO programme. They are St John’s City and the districts of St John’s City South and St John’s City West.