Staff and visitors of the Ministry of Education were surprised by the sound of emergency sirens on Friday, 4 October in the mid-morning. The commotion was the result of a routine fire drill carried out by the National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA), along with the Ministry of Education, to monitor and evaluate the staff’s preparedness in responding to the threat of a fire.
Acting National Coordinator of NaDMA, Terrance Walters, explained the need for drills of this nature to be carried out in work spaces.
“These drills, fire drills and earthquake drills, are very important because we need to ensure that workers know the procedures and know how to respond. So for example, if you hear the alarm and you know what to do it could mean life or death. This is all about protecting workers and ensuring that you preserve life,” Mr. Walters said. “One of the things that people try to do is secure their belongings. You have to forget belongings at that point because in an emergency you are trying to save yourself. You get to the nearest exit, get to safety and if you can assist any others around you to get to safety you should ensure that you do that.”
The magnitude of the drill’s importance was experienced by Ms. Tonia Hyacinth, Member of NaDMA’s Shelter Committee in the Ministry of Education, who realised, upon setting off the alarms, that two of them had malfunctioned.
“It’s important that things like this are done. We haven’t had a drill in a very long time and triggering the alarm told us that we have a problem. We have two alarms that did not activate on trigger within the building; the one near Early Childhood and the one as you enter the hallway on the second floor. The [alarm] that triggered was the one in the kitchen; the one I triggered to set off today’s event. We definitely have to look into our fire alarms and ensure that they are working properly,” Ms. Hyacinth said.
Speaking on the exercise, Kathy-Ann Morain, Chief Evaluator from NaDMA, said “I think there are a lot of things that [the Ministry of Education] could work on in terms of the head count.”
Ms. Morain identified one Head of Department during the drill that was able to account for all of the workers in her unit. She was unable to easily identify any other Heads of Department to ask them about the safety of their immediate staff members.
“As we go forward and as you look to improve on your plan ensure that if something happens and persons have to evacuate from the building that they are accounted for at the end of it all,” Ms. Morain said.
Following the drill, the staff met with the members of NaDMA and the Royal Grenada Police Force where the situation was analysed and recommendations were made as to how to better respond to emergencies such as a fire.
The exercise commenced sharply at 10:30 am and concluded at11:25am.