BEIRUT: A new specialist emergency center was opened Tuesday at Rafik Hariri University Hospital, just a few days after Lebanon was rocked by a number of earthquakes.
The Emergency Operation Center was built to facilitate better coordination between the relevant bodies in the case of public health emergencies in Lebanon, such as outbreaks of disease, natural disasters and car bombs.
“EOC can be used in case of epidemic-prone, or foodborne disease; e.g. SARS, human pandemic influenza, environmental and natural disasters, other acute public health events caused by accidental or deliberate use of chemicals, radio-nuclear and foodborne agents, and natural disasters, etc.,” read a booklet distributed by the EOC on its opening day.
The center is equipped with multiple screens connected to satellite TV, computers, video and audio conferencing systems that will help staff to communicate with teams on the ground during emergencies, as well as other advanced technologies needed in an emergency situation.
The Rafik Hariri University Hospital helped to establish the EOC with the World Health Organization and the Health Ministry.
Its opening comes just after Lebanon over the weekend experienced six tremors causing buildings around the country to shake.
Also Tuesday, the Civil Defense circulated instructions on precautions that should be taken in advance of further potential earthquakes.
Preparatory measures include making sure that heavy objects that might fall and cause injury are fixed to something; identifying safe spots in the house away from glass windows and doors, such as beneath solid tables or next to pillar walls; keeping a first-aid kit at hand; and determining safe exits.
If caught by the tremor outdoors, the Civil Defense advises people to stay away from buildings, trees and power poles. Citizens should also avoid rushing to the seaside, since earthquakes increase the risk of tsunamis, and instead seek higher ground, the guidelines said.
If in a car, drivers should maintain control of their vehicle, park on the right-hand side of the road as quickly as possible and avoid going through bridges or tunnels as they may collapse depending on the tremor’s magnitude.
In case of injury or being trapped under the rubble, stay calm and try to draw the attention of rescuers by any available means such as knocking on pipelines to guide them toward you.
If unhurt, help evacuate the others or offer assistance to rescue teams, the guidelines said, cautioning that heavy precautions should be maintained as earthquakes are often followed by aftershocks.
Despite the proximity of the EOC’s opening to the weekend’s tremors, a source said that the opening date was not pushed forward to take advantage of it.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour also stressed that the EOC would be for “all Lebanese” and highlighted that it would be very useful in the event of another car bomb or suicide attack in Beirut.