Tsunami Simulation Exercise Timely

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Barbados and 33 member states bordering the Caribbean Sea, joined forces yesterday when they participated in a Caribbean/Western Atlantic-wide tsunami simulation exercise.

The Barbados component, which took place at the Department of Emergency Management’s (DEM) Warrens headquarters, comprised members of the Standing Committee on Coastal Hazards. It featured a fictional earthquake scenario, based on the real 1876 earthquake and tsunami, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and was located off the coast of the United States Virgin Islands.

Director of DEM, Judy Thomas, explained: "The purpose of this exercise was to improve the Tsunami Warning System’s effectiveness along the Caribbean coasts.?? It provided an opportunity for emergency management organisations throughout the Caribbean to exercise their operational lines of communication, review their tsunami response procedures, and promote tsunami preparedness."

Ms Thomas further added that regular exercising of response plans was critical to maintain readiness for an emergency, while emphasising that this was particularly true for tsunamis, which are infrequent but high impact events.

The regional test, which was planned during the last inter-governmental group meeting in March 2010, is now considered well timed, following on the heels of the real earthquake and tsunami event which occurred in Japan on March 11, this year.

As a result, countries examined their level of preparedness, ranging from the testing of the lines of communication between the Tsunami Warning Centre to the country, and onward to the population to a full-scale evacuation exercise involving the activation of the national emergency management system.

According to the Chairperson of the District Emergency Organisation (DEO), John Haynes: "As part of our community-based warning system we sent a number of persons from our DEO volunteer arm to disseminate tsunami information, put up posters and to talk to persons about evacuation. ??We covered the areas of St. Margaret’s School, Consett Bay, and College Savannah, as well as Fortesque. So we are doing our best to educate john public, one step at a time."

The committee comprises representatives of the Barbados Fire Service, The Royal Barbados Police Force, the Ministry of Health, the Telecommunications Unit, the Coastal Zone Management Unit, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism, Town and Country Planning Development Office, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce, LIME, Barbados Light & Power and the Ministry of Public Works.

Barbados is the Chair of the Inter-governmental Group for the Caribbean Tsunami Warning System.

tblackman@barbados.gov.bb

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