The decision on whether or not to issue a tsunami warning for Barbados rests solely with the Barbados Meteorological Service (MET Office).
This point was underscored by Senior Meteorologist of the Barbados MET Office, Clairmont Williams, during a recent press conference at the Department of Emergency Management to launch Earthquake and Tsunami Smart Month 2017.
“As the warning focal point for Barbados, we are tasked with the responsibility of receiving official tsunami information from the Pacific Warning Centre, analysing that information and initiating appropriate response actions,” he said.
He explained that previously, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) provided tsunami warnings in the event of a threat to the Caribbean and adjacent regions.
However, he stressed, the PTWC no longer issued warnings for Barbados. “What it does is provide you with a tsunami watch. That is, it would relay a level of threat to the Caribbean and adjacent regions, but they are not going to issue any tsunami warning,” Mr. Williams explained.
The Senior Meteorologist stressed that Barbados, along with other countries in the Caribbean and adjacent regions, now had the responsibility for issuing tsunami warning based on information received from the PTWC.
“The Barbados Meteorological Service is now referred to as the Tsunami Warning Focal Point, which is really the entity that receives the tsunami information and we are also the National Tsunami Warning Centre. We receive the information and decide if we have to issue warnings or not,” he noted.
However, Mr. Williams stressed that the MET Office’s role was not related to the science of earthquakes and tsunamis. He pointed out that staff at the Christ Church-based institution was trained to analyse information received from the Seismic Research Centre and the PTWC, and make assessments as to the level of alert or threat the tsunami, if it occurs, is likely to pose to Barbados.
The Senior Meteorologist urged all residents to recognize the natural warning signs for themselves. “To this day, no scientist has been able to predict when an earthquake can occur. Rather than being proactive, you have to react when it does occur,” he stated, noting that it provided the MET Office with a challenge.
Therefore, he insisted, it was crucial for members of the public to know what to do before something happened, as an earthquake or tsunami event required a completely different response, not only from the MET Office, but also from the general public.