Engineer proposes model to limit exposure of public in times of natural disaster
May 1, 2018
Engineer proposes model to limit exposure of public in times of natural disaster


LOCAL ENGINEER Kent Thomas is working on an initiative aimed at educating persons on how they can limit their exposure to danger in times of natural disaster.

Thomas, a former employee of Roads, Buildings and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) is calling the initiative ORCA, short for, Observe-Report-Caution- Attention.

He said these words represent phases that ensure safety of one’s person and others during an active flooding or landslide incident.

“OBSERVE the incident from afar, REPORT to the relevant authorities, CAUTION others to get a safe distance away, pay ATTENTION to your surroundings and be alert of further signs of threat,” said Thomas.

In a recent interview with SEARCHLIGHT, he said he got the idea for ORCA in 2016, while studying disaster management with a specialization in landslides in Japan.

“I watched a Facebook Live video of a reporter from my country, gathering information and showing a landslide which had occurred in her village. I madly tried to explain to her that she is putting her own life at risk and that she should be working with others to get people to safer areas or away from the main area of the landslide since there could be progressive slope failure.

“I realized that this wasn’t a message that got through to her or to others in the live feed. I realized that in the age we live in, millennials and the modern information-oriented folk are more interested in scoops and popularity than listening to scientific mumbo jumbo on disaster incidents,” said Thomas.

He said literature on disaster management discusses the issue of public safety within an event and how it can affect the execution of disaster recovery/ emergency response duties.

“This senseless exposure of onlookers poses a significant issue to the management of resources during an emergency as resources and manpower may need to be relocated if the issue progresses and leads to possible loss of life,” explained Thomas.

He noted that during an extreme event triggered by a primary source such as an earthquake or hurricane, it is possible that minor secondary events can occur. These events include shallow landslides that develop progressively to larger secondary events such as complete slope failure.

“Shallow landslides and debris flows are notorious for taking the lives of onlookers because these events progress rapidly often with limited time to escape or evacuate from the immediate zone,” stressed Thomas who thinks teaching a population to be more aware of their surroundings and to assist others to stay away from the zone surrounding the secondary landslide decreases the exposure they have to the possible failure.

“Not teaching a population leads to many bystanders surrounding secondary events in their communities, such as looking on at a bridge failure or a landslide, and leaves them exposed to progressive events, such as if a surge in river velocity breaks the banks of the river and takes onlookers with it,” explained Thomas.

He said he is hoping that he can educate and sensitize persons on the signs of a progressing event, the appropriate safety zone and assisting other persons to safety.

Thomas hopes that ORCA can be seen as a best-practice in improving disaster management in the Caribbean region.( LC)