The day was Wednesday, January 13, 1993. I had just turned 14 years old on that memorable day and, being very proud in achieving this milestone in my budding teen years, I strutted through the day at school on the proverbial cloud nine.
Right after lunch we headed towards the Assembly Hall for physical education (PE) class where, as is customary at the beginning of the term, our heights and weights were checked. I had just gotten my height measured when a rumbling sound began and, just like that, I watched as the whole Hall began to sway, my cloud nine came crashing down and pandemonium erupted… EARTHQUAKE!!!
Measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, the January 13, 1993 quake occurred on the eve of the 86th anniversary of the January 14, 1907 great earthquake and fire, which virtually destroyed Kingston.
For the majority of Jamaicans, the January 13 quake was the heaviest they’ve ever felt. The earthquake resulted in damages to public and private buildings and many wracked nerves. Many of us became so earthquake-conscious after this earthquake that walking across Sandy Gully bridge on Constant Spring Road was a hazard to health. As many of us know, any heavy vehicles driving across that bridge results in the bridge vibrating. Not a nice feeling at all!
Some years have now passed since that event and Jamaica has yet to be impacted by a major quake. The Haiti earthquake on January 12, 2010 reminds us that this can also happen to us as the quake originated on the Enriquillo faultline, which we share with Haiti.
This week is therefore a good time to bring to the country’s awareness the country’s vulnerability to earthquakes. Led by the national disaster management agency, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), January 9-15 is being observed by the nation as Earthquake Awareness Week under the theme “When an Earthquake Strikes … Be Bold! Drop, Cover, Hold.” Click here to access the ODPEM’s schedule of activities for the Week.
Unlike hurricanes, we cannot predict when an earthquake will occur. In the meantime we can do certain things to better prepare ourselves for such a shock. For instance, if you are inside during an earthquake try to take cover where you are:
- DUCK under a sturdy piece of furniture.
- Once there COVER your head with one hand to keep your head and eyes protected from falling or flying objects.
- With your other hand, HOLD onto the furniture.
This is called the Duck, Cover and Hold technique.
So we have two earthquake anniversaries being observed this week: the 18th anniversary of the 1993 earthquake on January 13 and the 104th anniversary of the great earthquake of 1907. We cannot tell when the next one will happen so let’s practice the duck, cover and hold technique and conduct an earthquake hazard hunt around our homes and offices to reduce our earthquake risk.
Until next time…
Gleaner (1993) Quake Jolts Jamaica. Thursday, January 14, 1993.
Wikipedia (2011) Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone. [Online]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enriquillo%E2%80%93Plantain_Garden_fault_zone. [Access on 10 January 2011].