Community-based tsunami recognition is among a range of benefits Barbados stands to gain, as part of upcoming initiatives to be rolled out by the Caribbean Tsunami Information Centre (CTIC).
Launched and established just over a year ago, the CTIC is providing support to the United Nations Development Programme (Barbados and the OECS), and the national authorities, to engage coastal communities, including those at Holetown, St. James, in the installation of an early warning system (EWS) under the Community Alerting Project (CAP).
Interim Director of CTIC, Alison Brome, explained that the Holetown CAP EWS was being funded by the United States Agency for International Development/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.??She added that that project was also expected to provide a platform for a wider pilot Performance-based Community Tsunami Recognition project, which was to be replicated in additional coastal communities.
Ms. Brome noted that the pilot project fell under the auspices of the Inter-governmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Early Warning System for the Caribbean and its Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE-EWS).
Key requirements for the community-based tsunami recognition programme, now under finalisation, include having a dedicated 24-hour institution with multiple means of receiving the tsunami warning message from the Tsunami Warning Centre, a function presently carried out by the Barbados Meteorological Office. Multiple means of disseminating and communicating tsunami warning information to the community in a timely manner are also required.
The communities will also be required to conduct a comprehensive tsunami awareness programme, which should include the hosting of community meetings; the identification of tsunami evacuation areas and evacuation routes and signs; providing members of the community with information; and integrating information into school programmes.
???One of the activities we are looking at with the schools is encouraging a tsunami club… where students learn about tsunami preparedness and mitigation within Tsunami Smart Clubs,??? Ms. Brome stated.
Meanwhile, communities having efficient plans, protocols and standard operating procedures; annual reporting systems; monitoring of the installation and maintenance of signage and equipment; and evaluation of the activities and re-certification, are also key parameters under consideration in finalising the requirements of the tsunami recognition programme.
Speaking during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Ms. Brome said that the roll out of the proposed programme within the ICG-Member States would target a number of stakeholders, including partner organisations, community institutions, the commercial sector and the community populace.
For Barbados, the specific stakeholders identified in conjunction with the national authorities include members of the District Emergency Organisations within the selected communities, the Barbados Red Cross, Community Disaster Response Teams, churches, schools, hotels and businesses including medical facilities.
Ms. Brome noted that after closer assessments were made as the project was rolled out, residents and other key stakeholders would be identified.??She made a special call for members of the commercial sector to become involved in the process, noting that a tourism-related company based in Holetown had already indicated an interest in sponsoring evacuation signage for the area, which would also see drills and other exercises being conducted.
In highlighting the benefits of undertaking the programme, the Interim Director stressed that communities would be better prepared to save lives through planning, education and awareness. ???Communities will have reduced loss of life and property damage if they plan before a tsunami arrives. No community is tsunami proof, but recognition can minimise losses to all communities,??? she stated.
Noting additional details of the CAP project, Ms. Brome explained that it would endeavour to install a system which could be used to disseminate warning information to the community, using various means ranging from internet-based devices, radios, and sirens dependent on the agreed requirements by the national community stakeholders and available resources.
The system would also need to be compatible with any traditional warning communication methods also agreed to by the community.??She indicated that based on the roll-out of CAP in countries such as Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, radio interrupt and radio broadcast systems were used as a part of their warning systems.
However, Ms. Brome pointed out that a fundamental part of the proposed recognition programme was for the CTIC to support the development and adaptation of the measures that were relevant to the dynamics of the Caribbean and its adjacent regions.???[So] as we look to initiate the programme in Barbados, we are looking at integrating tsunamis within an all hazard system approach,??? she indicated, adding similar projects were also being proposed for St. Kitts and Antigua and Barbuda.
The CTIC Director noted that Barbados was a good ???launch pad??? for the programme because of its level of tourism development and concentrated coastal settlement pattern.??She further stated that Barbados stood to benefit from other opportunities from the CTIC, which is currently being hosted by the Government of Barbados at the Department of Emergency Management in Warrens, St. Michael.
Among these are the direct benefits from the piloting and implementation of the tsunami recognition programme in communities across Barbados over a period of time with the support of CTIC.
???We are looking at utilising any available outputs from the Coastal Risk Assessment and Management Programme being implemented by the Coastal Zone Management Unit, which involves the generation of a high level of qualitative and quantitative data on risks in the coastal zone and using quantitative assessment, monitoring and management techniques for coastal hazards,??? Ms. Brome stated.
The CTIC has placed significant emphasis on training workshops to build capacity within the region as it relates to protocols and standard operating procedures for the tsunami hazard. It has also convened the annual CARIBE WAVE Exercise, and the development and adaptation of a suite of branding and public awareness materials for regional dissemination.
It is also involved in joint initiatives with other regional organisations such as the Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the Seismic Research Centre, in building capacity within member countries in tsunami hazard assessment and evacuation.