At 10 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3, emergency sirens, text messages and highway alerts on electronic billboards will report that a magnitude-6.5 earthquake just shook Costa Rica’s capital, San José. As part of the drill, nearly 60,000 people in over 90 buildings downtown will be evacuated.
This will be the country’s first “Massive Earthquake Evacuation Drill.” Its main goal is to allow emergency response agencies, public offices and businesses in the area to evaluate the effectiveness of emergency response plans, evacuation routes and gathering points during an emergency.
“Evacuees” will be taken to safe sites in parking lots, on sidewalks and in parks. Some streets will be temporarily closed during the drill to allow evacuees to reach designated gathering areas.
The emergency drill, called “Mi ciudad se prepara” (My City Prepares), is organized by San Jose’s Municipal Emergency Committee and the Network of Emergency Committees at workplaces. The National Emergency Commission (CNE) will be the top coordinatating agency.
Private companies, communities and some government agencies engage in similar exercises periodically, but this will be the first massive evacuation drill in such a large area, CNE President Iván Brenes Reyes said. Buildings in four districts of downtown San José will be evacuated: Hospital, Carmen, Catedral and Merced.
Authorities have been announcing the event in local media and distributing fliers on the capital’s streets with information about the drill.
CNE President Iván Brenes Reyes said last Tuesday that employers were expected to act as if it were a real emergency. He said the exercise will help save lives.
“The initiative seeks to set an example for other cities, communities and organized groups to plan and conduct similar activities,” Brenes said.
San José Mayor Sandra García Pérez said that most participants have been preparing their emergency teams and plans since earlier this year. “Their expectations are to get an assessment of their weaknesses, opportunities for improvement and especially to gain experience that can be shared with others,” she said.
The results of the evaluation will be released within a week after the drill, CNE spokeswoman Rebeca Morera said.
The emergency scenario
The scenario will be based on a big disaster caused by a strong earthquake with its epicenter in Alajuelita canton, in southwestern San José. The severity of the damage will exceed the capacity of local and national response, therefore emergency agencies also will test national protocols for requesting international assistance.
The drill assumes that the most affected cities in the earthquake scenario would be Alajuelita, Escazú, Aserrí, Desamparados, Santa Ana and central San José.
The drill will last about an hour and all participants will resume their normal routine after they receive confirmation that the exercise is over.
Here is the full list of participants and the number of buildings to be evacuated for each:
-Legislative Assembly (14 buildings)
-Association of Employees of the Social Security System (1 building)
-Costa Rica’s Central Bank (2 buildings)
-Bank of Costa Rica (6 buildings)
-National Bank of Costa Rica (2 buildings)
-Popular Bank’s Metropolitan Building (1 building)
-BN Vital (1 building)
-National Association of Educators (1 building)
-Social Security System (7 buildings)
-National Power and Light Company (8 buildings)
-Costa Rican Post Office (1 building)
-Clínica Bíblica Hospital (5 buildings)
-Costa Rican Electricity Institute (16 buildings)
-National Insurance Institute (3 buildings)
-Science, Technology and Telecommunications Ministry (2 buildings)
-Culture and Youth Ministry (1 building)
-Finance Ministry (2 buildings)
-National Museum (1 building)
-Popular Bank (1 building)
-Government Attorney’s Office (5 buildings)
-Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. (3 buildings)
-Supreme Elections Tribunal (3 buildings)
-Vida Plena Pension Operator (1 building)
-Walmart supermarkets (4 buildings)
Earthquake’s epicenter and area designated for the emergency drill: