Coastal Hazard Alert Systems in Place for Barbados

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(FP)

Barbados, like its Caribbean counterparts, will be automatically alerted in the event of any major differences in sea level rise or major displacements due to earthquakes.

This assurance has come from Acting Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), Dr. Lorna Inniss, as she addressed the launch of Caribe Wave 2013 at the Atlantis Hotel yesterday.

While explaining how the detection and warning system worked, Dr. Inniss said that there needed to be regional collaboration because tsunamis were waves that travelled between and among countries.

"Therefore, there needs to be regional cooperation which we already have. We have established an Inter-governmental Coordination Group for the wider Caribbean region, and we have about 34 countries that participate. All the countries that border the Caribbean sea are a part of that system," she pointed out.

The Acting Director told those present that once a warning was received from the Regional Warning Centre, it would be fed to the focal point of each country automatically. In the case of Barbados, that focal point for tsunamis and other hazards is the Barbados Meteorological Services.

Dr. Inniss added that another part of the process was that of hazard assessment, which involved understanding the hazard itself. "You know about Kick ???em Jenny, but what do you [really] know about Kick ???em Jenny? People keep asking ???is it dangerous or is it not?’ This is the science. It is only the scientists who can tell us that," she said.

She added that the ongoing Coastal Risk Assessment and Management Programme being implemented by the CZMU was expected to conduct the modeling and science for all sea level-related hazards. "At the end of this project we should have a series of hazard maps that the community can take and say ???this is my community and in a scenario like this, this is how far inland I need to go’," Dr. Inniss said.

However, she noted that while detection was important, developing the appropriate warning systems was just as critical to the process.

She stressed that determining how the message would be sent to those who were blind, deaf or disabled had to be taken into consideration especially within limited time frames.

"The faster we are able to get that warning out to the communities the better. A national notification is one of the elements that the Department of Emergency Management is working with the Telecoms Unit, and others, to develop right now. That notification system will have a number of elements to it," she pointed out.

The CZMU head added that the final component to the warning system was that of public awareness and education, especially in the context that equipment could fail. She explained that if such an eventuality failed, then persons should have been properly educated to listen for the signs in order to save themselves and someone else.

"The warning from the Warning Centre to the Met Service is important. But, I view just as important, every single member of the population and our visiting community, knowing exactly what to do when they feel, or hear or see something that is unusual in relation to the coastline. So, that is what we call an end-to-end tsunami and coastal hazards warning system," she stated.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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