Difficult Conversations – Stay and Live

Submitted by Grenville Phillips

On 1 August 2007, the Interstate-35 West bridge collapsed in Mississippi, killing 13 people and injuring 145. During the news reports, Engineers were criticized for not being explicit enough in their warnings about the “structurally deficient” rating of the bridge. 

Two months after the bridge collapsed, I wrote an article explicitly warning about the vulnerability of Barbadian houses to hurricanes.

In 2010, an earthquake struck Haiti, reportedly resulting in over 300,000 deaths. Approximately 1,300 schools collapsed or were unusable.  The following year (2011), earthquake design information was updated for the Caribbean. This update automatically made most multi-storey concrete buildings in the Caribbean, significantly under-designed for earthquakes.

After surveying all primary, secondary and tertiary schools in Barbados in 2012, I warned that most were likely to collapse during a major earthquake as a result of the new standards, and sub-standard construction practices. The solutions were obvious. New school buildings should be economically designed to the new standard, and existing school buildings should be economically strengthened.

Earlier this month (March 2021), the Government confirmed its earthquake-safety protocols. Our students must remain in their classrooms during an earthquake, and shelter under their desks. That is good advice for occupants of buildings specifically designed for major earthquakes. Sheltering under a desk can protect occupants from falling ceiling tiles and other light-weight debris.

To ask our students to stay in the classroom of a building likely to collapse, does not seem like wise advice.

Approximately 17,000 students died in collapsed schools during the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. That proved that for buildings not designed for earthquakes, the advice actually means stay-and-die. Their deaths should not be in vain. The Government is advised to review this earthquake-safety protocol, while there is still time.

I was elated to learn that the Government was upgrading school buildings before the COVID-19 interruption. My elation turned to familiar frustration on learning that the upgrades were merely cosmetic, instead of structural. The Government is advised to critically review its building priorities.

Based on my decade-long advocacy on trying to reduce the risk of our schools collapsing during earthquakes, I do not expect the Government to change their stay-and-shelter earthquake protocols. However, our students must be given a fighting chance to survive when their classroom block collapses.

The obvious solution is to strengthen all desks in the classroom, so that they can collectively support the weight of the falling concrete slab(s) above it. The Government is strongly advised to consider the better alternative of economically strengthening the school buildings, so that our students can honestly be told to stay and live.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Earthquakes In Haiti and Chile Beg The Question: Can We Mitigate Against Natural Disasters?

Click Image (Google Earth)

This morning (EST) the world was again startled by the news that Chile was rocked by an earthquake which according to reports was measured at 8.8 on the Richter Scale (a top 10 earthquake). To be expected in the period immediately after the earthquake there is a lot of confusion as the world try to paint a picture of the damage which the earthquake has caused. Countries in the Pacific Rim are on tsunami alert which is expected in the post-earthquake period.

Our prayers extend to all affected by this calamity.

Up to the time of posting this blog 147 people have been reported dead and unknown numbers remain buried under collapsed structures. The epicentre is being reported as 320 km from the capital Santiago which is reported to have a population of over 5 millions or a third of Chile’s population. Reports however suggest that the older cities bordering Santiago with older buildings have been affected more that the newer city of Santiago. Chile is a country use to earthquakes.

Continue reading

Barbados Experiences Earth Tremor


Barbados experienced a nerve racking earth tremor moments ago. Stay tuned for more information! – see link for current status of tremor


3.18 PM– Initial reports indicate that some cell and land phones are out.

3.29 – Initial reports indicate that the earthquake/tremor has stretched as far as Antigua in the North and Guyana in the South

3.30 – The USGS website currently reporting the magnitude of the earthquake at 7.3

3.45 – Check this link as well for updates

3.51 – Early assessment of damage on the island indicate some houses have been damaged in St. George and St. Philip


Powerful Earthquake Hits Caribbean
22 minutes ago
ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) — A powerful earthquake rocked the eastern Caribbean on Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. No damage was immediately reported.
The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.3, was centered 23 miles southeast of Roseau, the capital of Dominica, where the shaking lasted for about 20 seconds. The quake was felt as far away as Puerto Rico.
The quake struck at 2 p.m. EST at a depth of 90 miles beneath the surface of the Earth, according to the geological survey’s Web site. – thanks to Adrian L

4.14 – Grantley Adams management gives all clear the the airport is OPEN

4.25 – Reports indicate that there is gridlock in Bridgetown . Police Force issues a warning to the public to avoid Bridgetown

4.55 A sense of calm and normalcy starting to return to the island

5.15- Several public pre-Independence events have been canceled including the Democratic Labour Party meeting in Independence Square previously scheduled for 6.30 PM

6.45 – See update on Trinidad & Tobago with reference to other islands

9.00 – Read about some of the experiences of Barbadians

United States Geological Survey Unit Reports 5.2 EarthQuake Occurred 930 Miles ENE Of Barbados



Earthquake Reported 930 Miles ENE of Bridgetown

Source: USGS

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) department has reported that a seismic event (earthquake) measuring 5.2 occurred 930 miles ENE of Bridgetown. If Barbadians want to provide feedback they can do by clicking this link or read a summary of what can now be called a non-event here.

Thank God no impact was felt in Barbados but a little too close for comfort!