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Dr. Lorna Inniss speaking to the media at today’s briefing. To her??left is Divisional Officer of the Barbados Fire Service, Ricardo Gittens and to the right is Director of the Barbados Meteorological Service, Hampden Lovell. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

Caribe Wave 2013 has surpassed its original objectives and exceeded all expectations.

That was the initial assessment of co-chair of the Technical Standing Committee on Coastal Hazards (TSCCH), Dr. Lorna Inniss, and other key stakeholders during a press briefing at the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) this afternoon.

Dr. Inniss explained that today’s event, divided into a table top and community-based exercise, was designed to test communication systems, processes and identify response and recovery procedures in the event of a tsunami hazard.

"In 2011 for Caribe Wave we did an orientation session, where we just discussed areas of concern to the agencies. This time we wanted to drill down a little further and identify areas for improvement in standard operating procedures (SOP) and protocols of different agencies that must respond to a disaster such as this," she disclosed.

Dr. Inniss, also Acting Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), said the discussion within the table top exercise raised a number of other issues. Among them was how the response to a tsunami would differ from that of a tropical cyclone or fire. "From that perspective we have a lot of work to do. [But], we have two years to review, to assess, to improve and to make amendments to draft new procedures where necessary. I think the agencies are energised to go away and get that done," she told the media.

She added that discussions surrounding SOPs also revealed a wealth of information, including new concepts and ideas that were not considered before, but could now be included so the SOPs could be finalised.

The TSCCH Co-Chair further stated that one of the things that was evident from today’s exercise was the need for the supporting science to underscore plans and procedures. She explained that they were at the start of getting that science in place as agencies such as the CZMU, the Barbados Meteorological Office and the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology were ready to complete the scientific analysis.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Joy St. John, also lauded work done during the exercise saying: "It was a very good exercise; not just that we were going through a simulation, but also because we were working together and trying to tease out how we would best function together."

Dr. St. John, also Chairman of the Health Services Standing Committee of DEM, added that the exercise was "quite revealing" in terms of readiness and understanding immediacy of action. "Normally we do not deal with a scenario with very little time to act, so it was useful to go through this table top exercise," she noted.

She added that the pairing of the table top exercise with an actual scenario on the ground was very useful for the Ministry of Health to see where there were deficiencies and what areas needed to be strengthened or backed up in existing SOPs.

Director of the Barbados Meteorological Service and Barbados’ national tsunami warning focal point, Hampden Lovell, explained that the department was responsible for receiving the tsunami messages from the Pacific Warning Centre and transmitting them to the DEM, before they were sent to the relevant entities.

"All the messages were received on time, though we had some hiccups as to the dissemination when it got here. These messages came via most of the relevant media, cell phones, fax and VHF radio which were transmitted to people on the ground," he said, noting that his department was named as the warning focal point because of its 24-hour nature.

Police Superintendent William Yearwood, described today’s exercise as a learning process in terms of preparing the Force’s readiness to respond to a tsunami situation. "We would have received certain presentations and noted the action we would have taken in response to the scenario that was rolling out," he said.

Mr. Yearwood added that his function today was to collaborate with the DEM representatives and arrange for the appropriate responses to scenarios occurring on the ground.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Divisional Officer of the Barbados Fire Service, Ricardo Gittens, who noted that while the exercise would form a part of their ongoing training, it would also test their operational capabilities, communication systems in, and response to other agencies.

"Without a doubt it was a very revealing exercise. We can now return to our various agencies and look at the SOPs and review them or get new ones," he pointed out.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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