EOC to participate in Region-wide Tsunami Warning Exercise

POSTED: 03/18/11 2:00 PM

St. Maarten – The Office of Disaster Management will be partaking in a Caribbean region-wide tsunami warning exercise on Wednesday, March 23. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which includes the 10 Emergency Support Functions (ESF), will be mobilized to participate in a workshop at 10:00 a.m. on March 23 at the Fire & Ambulance Building in Cay Hill.  

The region-wide tsunami drill referred to “Exercise Caribe Wave 11/LANTEX” will allow the country’s ESF coordinators, in a workshop setting, to discuss possible actions to be taken, the flow of information, warnings to the population, evacuation etc.  The end result of the workshop is to develop a plan of action which will lead to the development of a tsunami plan for St. Maarten.  

“The overall region-wide exercise is being conducted to assist tsunami preparedness efforts throughout the Caribbean. Recent events, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean, 2009 Samoa, and 2010 Haiti and Chile earthquakes and tsunamis, attest to the importance of proper planning for tsunami response,” ire Commander/Disaster Coordinator Winston Salomon said on Thursday.

 Historical tsunami records from sources such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) show that over 75 tsunamis with validity greater than one have been observed in the Caribbean over the past 500 years. Since 1842 at least 3, 510 people have lost their lives to tsunami in the Caribbean. 

“The purpose of the regional exercise is to improve tsunami warning system effectiveness along the Caribbean coasts.  The exercise provides an opportunity for emergency management organizations throughout the Caribbean to exercise their operational lines of communications, review their tsunami response procedures, and promote tsunami preparedness. We see the importance of this and our workshop will lead to the development of a tsunami response plan.  Preparing for an earthquake/tsunami situation is very different than preparing for a hurricane.  There is no warning of an earthquake; however you do get some time to take action when a tsunami warning has been issued,” Salomon told the Department of Communications (DCOMM) on Thursday.  

He added, “We need to take it from that perspective. Last year the French side along with our disaster management office had a joint earthquake awareness campaign which went very well. A tsunami awareness campaign will be needed in the future once we have a plan in place. The earthquake/tsunami that took place in Japan last week only emphasizes the importance of having an exercise.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, the Caribbean Emergency Management Agency, the Cento de Coordinacion para la Prevencion de los Desastres Naturales en America Central, NOAA, and the U.S. National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, are providing the framework for this exercise as a means for emergency responders throughout the Caribbean to test and update tsunami response plans.

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