Earthquake Detected Before It Struck

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Barbados received warning of yesterday???s earthquake five minutes before it struck, and 10 minutes before the warning was received from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC).

The new software, the California Integrated Seismic Network software, alerted local officials of the event between 5:22 and 5:23 a.m.

This represented an average of five to six minutes before the ground shook at 5:27 a.m., and 10 minutes before warnings were received from the PTWC at 5:36 a.m.

Speaking in the wake of yesterday???s 6.7 magnitude earthquake, Senior Meteorologist at the Barbados Meteorological Service (BMS), Clairmont Williams, explained that the acquisition of the software came as a result of a regional workshop which was held in Barbados last December and coordinated by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) and personnel from the PTWC.

He added that it was based on a series of seismic network stations which monitored earthquakes and any type of seismic activity.??Mr. Williams pointed out that the difference in alert times between the two systems was crucial. ???The fact that the system monitored and detected earthquake activity at 5:22 a.m. is critical,??? he said.

The Senior Meteorologist noted that the PTWC could not get information to Barbados within five to seven minutes of an event occurring. However, the country needed to be able to take certain steps to determine if it was a threat so information could be disseminated to the public.

However, the BMS??? Acting Director, Hampden Lovell, expressed concern that although the information was received early, there was still some question about getting it out to the public on time.?????Right now we get the information to the Department of Emergency Management who will get it mass transmitted, but if we can get the equipment to assist us with that it would help,??? he said.

This was supported by the Director of DEM, Judy Thomas, who noted that while the new software did enhance the notification process, officials were still experiencing difficulty with mass notification. ???We are still working on strengthening the mass notification systems,??? she said.

She added that there was a need for radio stations to be activated for mass notification and sirens which can be triggered to warn the public.

Meanwhile, Acting Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Dr. Lorna Inniss, said over the next three to four years, that institution was committed to doing modelling and analysis of the hazards as it relates to Barbados??? vulnerabilities and assess the risks to life, the economy and tourism.

She noted the island presently had a seismic station at Gun Hill in St. George, which was one out of 130 located throughout the Caribbean.
In addition, there are three sea level stations which assist with determining if a tsunami was likely to affect the island.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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