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Best And worse Tsunami Responses In A Real Time Simulation
Thu, January 11, 2018
Today, Councilor with responsibility for emergency management, Phillip Willoughby discussed the response protocol that was employed in the city on Tuesday night, and the lessons that were very quickly learned about best and worst practices in a real time scenario:...

Phillip Willoughby - City Councilor, Disaster Mgmt.
"The protocol would be that the police department and the national fire service would go in low laying areas and to activate these sirens. Thereafter what would have been done was that the hurricane shelter would have been opened, so that took place thereafter. In addition to the hurricane shelters being open, I got notification again from the national emergency coordinator that will be utilizing the new city centre and the Marion Jones stadium. We saw a huge migration of persons from behind the Jane Usher Boulevard area and within the Caesar Ridge area, the Yabra area specifically. The mass migration I can say that was coming out of Jane Usher Boulevard was a whole lot, not what we would face during a hurricane. The large number of people that were coming, so everybody was fighting to go to the nearest building."

And Willoughby says that in the event of a tsunami, those along the coast are encouraged to go to the nearest structurally sound building that has a second or third floor. And while many did do that, it seems that everyone who had a car, headed for the hills - unto the George Price Highway. Willoughby says that's one of the worst things they could have done:

Phillip Willoughby - City Councilor, Disaster Mgmt.
"Recall also the minister said minimize to maybe even limiting vehicle crossing bridges and do you know why the minister said that, because we don't know if the tremor from the earthquake compromised the structure or the highways, the road network, or the bridge could have been compromised but yet still a large number of vehicular traffic tried to exit the city which was a no no. It hurt me at the time seeing the long lines of vehicle at the gas station. Do you know what would have happened if that tsunami would have come? You would have been trapped in your vehicle. Let's be real and I don't want to say this to seem as though I'm scolding the residence of the city, but the minister gave specific instructions and he knows why he said that and stated that."

And so going, forward - the most important preparedness tool seems to be public education - because as was made clear on Tuesday night - no one knows precisely what's the wisest thing to do in the event of a sudden Tsunami threat. Willoughby discussed this and the many disaster scenarios that could unfold:

Phillip Willoughby - City Councilor, Disaster Mgmt.
"We know that an extensive PR operation needs to take place, like yesterday in light of what happened. For sure I know that our PR manager, the NEMO PR people will need to come up with something ASAP, but after we have this discussion with the ministry and other stakeholders in terms of developing these protocols and then these protocols then would have to be disseminated via media, print if we need to get this signed or brail or whatever to communicate across the landscape to get this information and then that has to be done."

"I think there has to be wide discussion looking at all angles of possible outcomes in relation to earthquake the time they strike and the time frame in which we have to execute what would then be deemed as the termed of reference. If there was an earthquake during daylight hours and you had kids in school and then they are with teachers, family, parents. What we need to include is if there is any boat in our harbors, sugar barges, cruise ships, what is there for us to do and how do we react. I know that the stevedores, they contacted me and others in one way or another saying that they are on the sugar boat out there, shoveling sugar, and they get alarmed by this threat. How do we respond to that? All of these anomies has to be taken into consideration when we put together this plan. These threat shouldn't be taken lightly, please don't think because it didn't happen, it cannot happen and you take it for granted, I'm not moving on, I'll just stand here and wait it out. If we can preserve life and protect life for families and loved ones that's what we need to."

And while the resolve to respond is there, Willoughby wasn't happy with some who posted their own scary alerts on social media - creating a state of national anxiety - that continued even after the all clear was declared at 11:00 pm:..

Phillip Willoughby - City Councilor, Disaster Mgmt.
"Listen to me, listen to only what advisory and other information is disseminated from the ministry of the national emergency management. Don't take into consideration any other information from any other who or anybody or anywhere. Let's keep that information local and I don't know why other pictures were posted on Facebook and other social media notifying the residence of the city of the potential tsunami it 4:30 am in the morning. Do you know what that did to the residence of the city and the minds of other people who saw that post?"

The most recent post on NEMO's Facebook page was made close to one month ago.

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