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Tsunami Evacuation Exercise Draws Record 25% Of BVI Population

Tsunami Evacuation Exercise Draws Record 25% Of BVI Population

March 21, 20171819Views

Over 7,000 persons moved to tsunami safe locations today as part of the annual earthquake and tsunami simulation exercise – ‘CARIBE WAVE 17’.

This year’s figure sets a new record for the Territory, since participation in the regional exercise began in 2009.

CARIBE WAVE 17 provided an opportunity for the Territory to improve its tsunami warning system’s effectiveness and awareness by testing contingency plans, and promoting tsunami preparedness for critical entities.

The Department of Disaster Management (DDM) Training Officer, Carishma Hicks said the simulation exercise continues to spark interest and expand annually.

Ms. Hicks stated, “This year’s figure actually surpasses our in-house target and we were pleased to note an increased level of participation from all sectors, including schools.  This might be due to the continued efforts by the DDM and Ministry of Education to encourage Safe and SMART schools across the Territory; since schools wishing to be certified or recertified must participate in simulation exercises. Nonetheless, we encourage more businesses, departments and schools to participate in future exercises”.

The Training Officer added, “We view the increased participation as an indication that members of the public are understanding the seriousness of a tsunami threat to the region and are willing to play an active role in their own preparedness and that of the Territory”.

Ms. Hicks also highlighted the importance of the exercise as the Territory prepares for the National Weather Service’s reassessment in order to maintain the international Tsunami Ready certification accorded to the BVI in 2014.

She said the Territory is also aiming to renew its Tsunami Ready certification and it is anticipated that this high level of participation will be viewed favourably by the assessors since evacuation drills which include participation from schools, is among the requirements for certification.

The DDM utilised several communication methods to disseminate alert messages that were staggered at various times, throughout the exercise. This included text messages from all three local cellular providers, messages on radio and text scroll messages on television stations.  Social media platforms—Facebook and Twitter were also utilised for the distribution of alert messages along with DDM’s website, VHF radio systems and SMART radios.  SMART radios provide instant information and alert messages when activated and can be purchased through local suppliers available through the DDM.  The sirens were also activated on all four main islands to alert persons who are outdoors to monitor or tune in to one of the communication platforms.

Following the simulated evacuation, participants were able to evaluate their level of response and identify strengths and weaknesses which must be addressed prior to an actual event.  A debriefing session, led by the Director of the DDM, Sharleen DaBreo was also conducted at the DDM Conference Room which allowed for presentations and discussions from some evaluators and members of staff  involved in monitoring the evacuation process.

The DDM is encouraging feedback from participants and has made available a ‘CARIBE WAVE feedback survey’ that individuals can use to provide information which will help us make decisions to better promote, implement and communicate future CARIBE WAVE information and messages. This feedback will also inform our general communication decisions.

Persons interested in providing feedback and observations about CARIBE WAVE 17 are asked to complete the survey available on bviddm.com and on its Facebook page BVIDDM.

Over 450,000 persons were registered to participate from Bermuda to Brazil.

CARIBE WAVE is the annual tsunami exercise of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO/IOC), the Caribbean Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Programme (NTHMP)—a partnership of 29 states and territories and three federal agencies.