November, 11, 2006
At about 9:15 in the morning, the earthquake alarm siren went off. We had all been prepped, and informed for this earthquake drill, and now it was time to test the preparations.
SISMA, or System Integrated for Security Management Activities, is an EU organization dedicated to preserving cultural heritage sites in earthquake zones in Italy, Greece, the Balkans, Slovene Republic and Slovak Republic. Montone was chosen as the test site in Umbria.
Everyone left their houses, but not before turning off their lights, gas and water, then gathered at the appointed meeting places. The whole town was covered in signs pointing to the different meeting points. After counting heads, we went to another group meeting point, and then headed up to the parking lot near the gym, which is the town meeting point. The parking lot had been converted into a emergency check point, there was ‘pronto scorso’, or emergency care tents, a tent to register your name and family, other tents for emergency volunteers. It was very well organized, and quite impressive. Of course, everyone was saying that in the event of a true emergency, things would not be so calm and efficient. That is true, but this exercise was a good way to demonstrate what should be happening in the event of an earthquake, and to give everyone a good idea of what needs to be done and where to go. God forbid we ever need to actually use this knowledge. Everyone stood around in groups telling stories of previous earthquakes. At one point, we all visited the school gym, which had been converted into a sort of dormitory with rows of beds. All of a sudden, Katrina and the dreadful Astrodrome situation, didn’t seem so remote.
Everyone then headed down to the piazza for a demonstration of a window rescue by the fire department. Then we headed down via Garibaldi, where we would watch the rescue of a woman who had been buried in her car under a pile of rubble. On one hand, the kids were fascinated by the dramatic demonstrations, on the other hand, should an emergency occur, hopefully they will remember that help will come and not to panic.
All in all, it was a worthy exercise and the dedication of all the volunteeers was truly impressive.
To our Montonese friends who were not here for the exercise, I would advise that you check in with the commune on your next visit to find out what zone you are in, and your check points. A bit of knowledge in an emergency can be a very valuable thing.
November, 11, 2006